at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
written by Moliere
adapted by Oded Gross and Tracy Young
Nothing is more pointless than dragging a 450-year-old social satire on to the stage with the original words, digs, and references in tact. I was not looking forward to a dusty homage to Moliere, but my expectations were low anyway because Imaginary Invalid was the designated — and mandatory — silly farce for 2011.
Fortunately, Oregon Shakespeare Festival choose to be faithful to the spirit of Moliere instead of being slavishly bound to the original text. This Invalid is all about the 21st Century and its health care issues, and the freshly adapted show is a thoroughly enjoyable pointed romp.
The script contains a tolerable amount of references to modern politics and inside-OSF theater jokes to reward the cognoscenti. There is also a very cute interview that Rodney Gardiner (the musician Guy) conducts with a random audience member at the start of the second act. Customized theater is fun, even if Invalid isn’t as changing as friends say that director Tracy Young’s Servant of Two Masters was in 2009.
David Kelly (Argan) and K.T. Vogt (Toinette) sustain the good humor with appropriate slapstick timing and great glances. There’s lots of music in this Invalid, and Kelly has a very credible voice throughout.
Each of the islands of quirkiness were well played and fun to watch. Terri McMahon (Beline) was a perfect stereotype self-absorbed younger wife. Robert Vincent Frank (Monsieur Diafoirus) was nice bit of pushy father, and his voice added depth and strength to the ensemble singing. Daniel T. Parker (Dr. Purgon) was a fun pompous ass, and Daisuke Tsuji (Thomas Diafoirus) and Nell Geisslinger (Louison) were terrific nerdy lovebirds. Kimbre Lancaster (Angelique) and Chris Livingston (Cleante) were well cast as the pretty daughter and her hopeful suitor. Jeff King (Beralde) was indeed a clean character who was the man who was actually sick, and U. Jonathan Toppo (Monsieur de Bonnefoi) was fine in his brief appearances a sleazy lawyer. [Thanks to apparentparadox for sorting out this list.]
Christopher Acebo’s set was a relief. It was rich yet simple, traditional, and a nice break from the video infused magic that I truly have loved in other performances.
Imaginary Invalid isn’t filled with life-changing insight. The Seize-the-Day message is simple and simplistic. But, OSF delivered that advice in 2 1/2 hours of quality entertainment.