The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday July 6th

PlayMakers brings edgy comedy about health care

Imaginary Invalid play at Paul Green Theatre at the Center for Dramatic Art.

Steven Epp plays Argan
Molly Ward plays Toinette
Buy Photos Imaginary Invalid play at Paul Green Theatre at the Center for Dramatic Art. Steven Epp plays Argan Molly Ward plays Toinette

While Americans voice their opinions about health care in the current election, PlayMakers Repertory Company is also casting its vote — against excessive medication.

PlayMakers’ world premiere of David Ball’s adaptation of “Imaginary Invalid” opens tonight. The classic play was originally written by 17th-century French playwright Molière.


Time: 7:30 p.m., tonight
Location: Paul Green Theatre

The production, directed by Dominique Serrand, focuses on a rich hypochondriac who surrounds himself with a host of phony medical experts.

The show is one of two original productions commissioned by PlayMakers this season.

Joseph Haj, producing artistic director for PlayMakers, said he had been in talks with Serrand to produce a show for a few years.

“It took us a couple of years to find the right project,” Haj said.

When the idea for “Imaginary Invalid” came around, Haj said he knew it was the right fit.

“I just think it’s such an amazing moment to do this play,” Haj said.

Serrand said while the play is not specifically about health care, it considers the many ways in which people turn to medication — even when not necessary.

Ball said he adapted Molière’s famous play to make it relevant for today’s audience.

“Now people are being treated for a disease they have never heard of, for symptoms they never had until they hear of them,” Ball said.

Steven Epp, who plays the titular invalid in the show, said he identifies with his character.

“I’m always slightly on the verge of thinking I have something,” Epp said. “I understand that paranoia.”

The plot of “Imaginary Invalid” exploits the tendency to depend on medicine, providing insight into human nature.

“It’s about a very deep-seeded human nature that says there must be something wrong with me, so I need doctors and I need pills,” Ball said.

While the play explores some political issues, Serrand said the primary purpose of the play is to make people laugh.

Epp said it can be tricky to work with comedy about weighty subjects such as medicine and health care — especially in the current political climate.

“Some of the best comedy comes from being right on the edge,” Epp said. “The key is that it stays playful.”

But, Epp said that sometimes risks are worth taking.

“There’s always a little more excitement in the room — it feels a little more dangerous.”

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