Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Imaginary Invalid"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark


"The Imaginary Invalid"

by Moliere
Modern Adaptation by Miles Malleson
Directe by Brian Triber

Lighting & Sound Design by US Productions
Costumes by Sweatshop Designs
Stage Manager Sreve Wilson
Assistant Stage Manager Joan-Marie Dewsnap

Argan...............................................Rick Carpenter
Toinette...................................................Colleen Kelley
Angelica.........................................................Kelly Tew
Beline/Louise.........................................Valerie Madden
Bonnefoy/Thomas/Beralde.....................Richard Girardi
Cleante...........................................................Louis See
Dr. Diaforus/Apothecary/Dr. Purgeon..........Dan Wilson

Miles Malleson's modernized Moliere sacrifices relentless rhyme for solidly sensible nonsense, and director Brian Triber and his cast of seven scurrilously energetic, endlessly inventive actors decorate the old farce with deliciously overdone details, takes and subtle glances that roll out one bellylaugh after another. Their hypochondriac and the doctors, lawyer, lovers and wife gyrating around him make this "Imaginary Invalid" as funny today as it was 427 years ago. La plus change....

Moliere's system was to give each character one or two unfailing eccentricities or passions, then to fling them all at one another to see the sparks fly. Here Rick Carpenter is a pinchpenny hypochondriac hoping to marry his eldest daughter into a family of doctors, hoping to get medical advice for free forever --- and what if Rich Girardi's young doctor is a wooden, inarticulate boob, and Dan Wilson as his doctor dad is a stuffy autocrat? This is a comedy, isn't it?

Kelly Tew's dewy-eyed daughter has her eyes set on Louis See's handsome Cleante, who has them "extemporize" a hysterical rhymed aria from his operetta (Oh, I forgot to tell you he pretends to be an assistant-singing-teacher to confess his love) that spells out in subtexts and in interchanges their plot to marry. Valerie Madden, on the other hand, is a scheming second-wife as intent on hubby's moneybox as she is on Rich Girardi, the sleazy lawyer helping her bilk the old man as legally as possible. And Valerie Madden's turn as the pre-teen younger daughter Louise is irritating innocence personified.

Dan Wilson's swish apothecary, deadly syringe at the ready, is upstaged only by Dan Wilson's high dudgeon as Dr. Purgon, outraged that his most ripely pluckable patient would even think of asking a second opinion.

Oh, did I mention that there are a lot of doubled-roles here --- such as Rich Girardi's third entrance as Beralde, the invalid's no-nonsense brother, apparently back from Africa so soon he hadn't time to doff his pith helmet. But the doubling is so deft you can't really tell the players without a score-card, and sometimes not even then. And when you can, it even adds to the fun.

In addition to seven people playing a dozen roles, there's a lot of deceptive role-playing as well. Colleen Kelly's sharp-witted, sharp-tongued chambermaid storms on early as a jester saying sooth in no uncertain terms, spraying uppity repartee in all directions, and donning a doctor's black cape (And a big black beard that could itself double as her wig!) to pretend to be a physician visiting from Italy come to cure this world-famous patient.

The style here is full-out farce, with sly glances, shameless upstagings, and sharply timed quick-take comments on the lines further exaggerating the flurry, scurry and bustle of all the plotters. And when a band of black-cloaked doctors initiate the overly healthy invalid into their profession with a rhymed, rhythmic ritual of pseudo-dog-Latin --- Well, even after 427 years, this company of energetic, inventive theater experts make Moliere as funny as he ever was. .....la meme hilarious chose!

Love,
===Anon.


"The Imaginary Invalid" (till 22 April)
UBIQUITY STAGE
At Tower Auditorium, Massachusetts College of Art, 621 Huntington Avenue, BOSTON
1(617) 782-1344

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