Saturday night’s IU Theatre goers and I, all ready for Molière’s The Imaginary Invalid, were a bit perplexed as the lights went up. We weren’t looking in on 17th-century French farce. We were viewing a TV style talk show with a host and four doctors in white coats and scrubs. Our concern eased as the topic for discussion was hypochondria and it did lead neatly into the first scene of the play.
Throughout the evening additional commentary from the doctors and commercials for current products like Viagra and a few historical remedies such as leeches, prescribed for the ills mentioned in the play punctuated and commented on the drama. The doctor panels formed nice breaks and were thematically tied in, but the actors only occasionally seemed comfortable on their TV stools.
Director Cameron-Webb describes the plot of The Imaginary Invalid as a stock farce.The invalid has convinced himself that he’s deathly ill from a comical battery of ailments. His approach to an affordable health care act is to marry his daughter off to a doctor. She wants the best care for him, but her affections are elsewhere. His gold digging second wife is just waiting for him to die.Rounding out the principals are a clever house maid and the invalid’s sense talking brother.
Josh Krause was a charmer as the irritating and wily invalid. Courtney Lucien was his lovely love struck daughter. Daniel Sheffer was very funny as the father’s intended, a young doofus of a medic. Emily harp was regal and vulpine as the invalid’s scheming second wife. Nicole Bruce was a delight as the much maligned and feisty maid. Adam St. John had to handle an overlong discussion of the ins and outs of the medical scene, but remained the picture of probity as the invalid’s sensible brother.
Andrea Ball’s gilded wall panels with checkerboard floor and ceiling made a lovely setting. Johna Sewell’s costumes from the simple white coats and scrubs of the doctors to the baroquely comical outfits of the visiting doctors were very much part of the drama.
Molière’s The Imaginary Invalid was and is a very funny play. While mixing in modern scenes this production pays full attention to honor the original. Saturday night’s audience laughed frequently and even spontaneously applauded some of the scenes.
The IU Department of Theatre, Drama and Dance’s production in the Ruth N. Halls Theatre continues Oct 1-5.