This production of Molière's old chestnut is suspended between being a museum piece and being relentlessly, almost awkwardly, contemporary.

On the museum-piece side: Molière, the 17th-century French satirist, was heavily influenced by commedia dell'arte, and Christopher Bayes, the 21st-century director and coadaptor of this Doctor in Spite of Himself, is a commedia and clowning expert. Bayes and his cast push Molière backward, in a commedia direction with masks and broad characters, physical comedy and improvisation.

On the contemporary side: In an effort to blow some dust off the old commedia routine, Bayes and company make lots of jokes about farting and fucking, as well as race (the black characters have a habit of breaking into self-consciously funk-kay little raps and dances) and 21st-century cultural icons (Lucinde, the lovelorn "patient" of this Doctor is gussied up as a goth chick).

In their transparent effort to make Molière "relatable to the kids" or "down with the youth" or however they described the project to themselves, Bayes and company lose the war on both fronts. The humor is neither as rich and intelligent as a Molière satire should be, nor is it as funny as the Marx Brothers, Mel Brooks, Judd Apatow, Matt Groening, or the writers of South Park—the true heirs of commedia dell'arte who built careers on combining wickedly smart social satire with fart jokes.

So we get this Doctor in Spite of Himself: a comedy that feels both dusty and cloying, a grandma in a tube top.

The cast (including some formidable talents like Renata Friedman, Daniel Breaker, and Chelsey Rives) is energetic and zealous, cracking each other up with improvised-sounding riffs, jumping around and singing with the two onstage musicians, and dancing funny dances. They seem like they're having a grand old time.

Good for them. recommended