Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Imaginary Invalid by Molière and David Chambers, Mary Moody Northen Theatre, St. Edward's University, September 16 - 26

The Imaginary Invalid Mary Moody Northen Theatre St. Edward's University

Jean-Baptiste Poquelin would not have objected at all to this re-do of his 1673 farce. He wrote The Imaginary Invalid in rapid-fire prose, using verse only for comic ballets at the intervals (omitted in this staging). David Chambers' translation/interpretation of the piece follows the action faithfully, although often with slangy word choices. Between them, Chambers and director David Long apply a clownification of the characters and a Borscht Belt leer not obvious in the original texts.

David Long has a good time, sending the characters zinging along. Some of his direction recalled those presentational techniques he used last year for bobrauschenbergamerica -- marking soliloquies and the young lovers' mock operetta with rapid, showy shifts of lighting, for example.

Richard Robichaux (image: Mary Moody Northen Theatre)Argan, the title character played with fine finicky flair by veteran actor Richard Robichaux, is a rich hypochondriac with two daughters. Their mother passed away and Argan remarried -- to an effusive gold digger determined to persuade him to deed his property to her. Chambers renders this character -- Béline in the original -- as "Nastya," played by the charming Jill Blackwood with a patently fake Russian accent. Argan is determined to marry off his elder daughter Angelina (Michelle Elisabeth Brandt) to a physician so that he'll have free medical care, but she has already fallen in love with another (Cléanthe, played by Jon Wayne Martin).

Robichaux has lots of grumpy one-liners, mostly insults. His perpetual antagonist is Toinette, the servant, but he also gets into it with physician Thomas Diablo (Robert Faires), with Cléanthe, and with his brother (also played by Faires). In contrast and to our great amusement, the hypochondriac goes all goo-goo eyes with wife Nastya and gets entirely panicked by the rages of his principal physician Dr. Defecato (Meredith Montgomery).

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