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Re-working of Moliére’s ‘Imaginary Invalid’ is hit

October 25, 2012

By Miranda Rosso

No matter your current state of health, the exciting modernization of “The Imaginary Invalid” at the Hanna Theatre will leave you feeling revitalized.

Courtesy of the Great Lakes Theater Company, “The Imaginary Invalid” is the lively retelling of Moliére’s classic comedy. Written in 1673, this modernized, revved up and fresh musical reproduction is set in the 1960s and tells the tale of Argan, a wealthy yet seemingly unhealthy man self-quarantined to his lavish Parisian apartment.

Photo By Roger MastroianniOvercome by fear, overwrought by the scheming of a shady second wife and overwhelmed by the quackery of the medical community, Argan’s loving daughters, beloved brother and mouthy maidservant give him the opportunity to rediscover life as well as happiness. If only he can set down the horse pills and protein enemas.

Behind this delightful collision of classic satire and an artfully crafted sixties setting are director Tracy Young and adaptor Oded Gross. With their fondness for retro pop music and retrofitting classic plays, this production of “The Imaginary Invalid” is seamless in its fusion of cultures separated by 300 years. It all comes to life under the elaborate scenic and costume design of Christopher Acebo, who takes the notoriously lavish fashion and architecture of 17th century France and reinterprets it with mod 60s sensibilities that prove to be just as garish. Added to the mix is original music by Paul James Prendergast that offers lyrics that place the importance of love and life — this play’s underlying themes — above all else.

“The Imaginary Invalid” would not be the joy that it is to watch without the ironically melodramatic and endearing performance by Tom Ford as Argan. Delivering humor that bites and a manic-yet-charming stage presence, Ford does well with embodying the sickly aristocrat’s tainted take on reality. Just as talented is Sara M. Bruener as Argan’s stubborn yet admirable maidservant, Toinette, who handles the physical comedy layered into this production like the professional she is. Other notable performances include Jodi Dominick’s hilarious interpretation of daughter Louison, Lynn Robert Berg as the incredibly flamboyant and delightfully sinister physician Dr. Purgon, and M.A. Taylor as Guy, Toinette’s brother who playfully interacts with the audience upon their arrival and during intermission. Across the rest of this large ensemble of players, not a single performance could be categorized as anything less than thoroughly entertaining.

This show proves that when persuaded by high-energy performances and the urgent message that life is meant to be lived, laughter truly is the best medicine.