A HEALTHY DOSE OF MOLIÈRE
REVIEW: THE IMAGINARY INVALID
BY RYAN M. LUÉVANO
Make it a Molière kind of night at A Noise Within Theatre Company as they bring audiences The Imaginary Invalid this fall. Have you ever had a friend, coworker, or family member who always claims to be ill? —or maybe that person is you. Whatever the case is Molière’s farcical play from 1673 stands the test of time as a humorous, whimsical and captivating tale about a hypochondriac who is set out to do anything he can to reduce his mounting medical debts.
As a matter of fact, Molière was no stranger to fake doctors and imaginary illness. When he was young man, he spent time working for a “Snake-Oil” salesman, pretending to be a patient that had been cured by the “miracle elixir” and it’s been speculated that it was this experience that led him to write The Imaginary Invalid or The Hypochondriac, an alternative translation of the French title.
This version of the play is adapted by Constance Congdon and is based on a new translation by Dan Smith. What this means for American audiences is that we are seeing a version of this play that shapes all of Molière’s French wit into theatre is specifically designed for our modern palate. What’s more director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott seeks to give us the best of both worlds by presenting this play true to the style of the era in which it was written complete with song and dance scenes inherent of the comédie-ballet genre of the 17th century. Additionally, Elliot’s staging places Argon literally at the center of the play, as all the action happens around him. As the momentum of the play increases she creates a merry go round effect that culminates in the final scene, which you have to see to believe.
Apollo Dukakis as Argon the hypochondriac is marvelous—delusional, outrageous and thoroughly uproarious. Argon’s maidservant Toinette played by Deborah Strang is the essential counterpart to Argon’s irrational persona. Strang’s sharp wit and retorts throughout adds fuel the to the fire that burns only brighter as we reach the play’s climax.
The duo that is an easy audience favorite is Doctor Purgeon (Jeremy Rabb) and his nephew Claude De Aria (Rafael Goldstein). Upon their first entrance it’s like watching a circus animal trainer (Rabb) show off his creature (Goldstein), the casting here is superb. Goldstein is bizarre to an umpteenth degree that beguiles audiences with his every move; you can tell he’s responding to our reactions. Another larger than life character is Monsieur de Bonnefoi (Freddy Douglass) who with his giant curly wig plays a convincing blowhard. Argon’s daughter Angélique (Kelsey Carthew) is daddy’s girl, the love-struck child and even she shows us her silvery soprano notes in her brief sung moments.
The visual elements although simple and understated work marvelously to bring us to the time and place. The stationary set by Angela Balogh Calin is adorned with jars of yellow liquid (you’ll find out what they represent later) that completely surround the stage providing the quintessential backdrop for this play. The element that adds the most to this play is the clever lighting by Ken Booth, his elegant lighting decisions takes us seamlessly from scene to scene. Add to all of this the costumes, also by Angela Balogh Calin, that match the temperament of each character beautifully and you have a play just looks as good its performance.
Sunday, October 23 at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm
Saturday, October 29 at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm
Thursday, November 3 at 7:30 pm
Friday, November 4 at 8:00 pm (Conversations)
Sunday, November 13 at 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm
(Conversations after 2:00 pm)
Thursday, November 17 at 7:30 pm
Friday, November 18 at 8:00 pm (Conversations)
Saturday, November 19 at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm
Tickets and information:
Website: www.anoisewithin.org; Phone: 626-356-3100 ex 1
Prices: Single Tickets from $44.00, Student Rush with ID an hour before performance $20.00
Groups (10 or more): Adults from $30/ticket; Students from $18/ticket
Pay What You Can Performance: Pay What You Can tickets (Thursday, October 13 at 7:30 pm) go on sale at box office on day of performance at 2:00 pm, and are sold cash-only, based on availability; limit two tickets per person.