The Asolo Rep’s The Imaginary Invalid provides post-holiday cheer.
By Kay Kipling
The Asolo Rep’s production of Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid is probably just the cure for what ails you—whether it’s the economy, world politics or your own real or imagined health problems. More than 450 years after it first bowed, this comic concoction still breathes plenty of life onto the stage.
This new adaptation, by Constance Congdon, makes the action even easier to follow and works in a few extra laughs besides getting in most of the original’s. We meet wealthy hypochondriac Argan (Douglas Jones) in his home, a Looney Tunes set by Judy Gailen that’s as bright and fun as the situation: Argan has a gold-digging trophy wife (Kris Danford) who pretends to be all sweetness and light; a marriageable daughter (Elisabeth Ahrens) who really is, all while looking like a little dressed-up figurine in her costume by Eduardo Sicangco; a doctor (James Clarke) who will bleed him dry, especially with the help of his newly minted physician nephew (David Yearta); and, of course, a cheeky servant (Carolyn Michel) who’s the only person who can really solve any problems.
With the colorful, creative set and costumes and the almost constant action giving us plenty to watch, and with a little music sprinkled in amidst the Moliere, this Invalid should entertain anyone facing the post-holiday blahs. Under Greg Leaming’s direction, everything is played to the hilt; but we’re still capable of feeling a little affection as well as exasperation with Argan in his blindness to reality. Jones is very good as the center of the piece, adept at all the physical comedy expected of him (count on lots of fart jokes).
But every character gets his due, including a stuttering notary (Brent Bateman) who’s the evil stepmother’s accomplice; the daughter’s hopeful lover (Randolph Paulsen, who seems to be channeling Peter Scolari from the old Newhart TV show); an apothecary (DeMario McGrew) who takes his work with enemas far too seriously; and most especially that nephew, whose rooster-like mannerisms (emphasized by feathered costume and reddish makeup and hair) are rooted in his being raised in a barn, apparently. Yearta, mouth always agape in an idiotic smile, is a riot in his moments onstage. It’s an evening fun for all, and who doesn’t need that these days?
The Imaginary Invalid continues in rotating rep through March 1; call 351-8000 or go to asolo.org.