Watching a modern adaptation of a classic comedy is a great reminder of where today’s comedic forces found their love of potty humor.
David Ball’s adaptation of French playwright Moliere’s 17th-century comedy “Imaginary Invalid” is no exception.
Performance: Saturday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m.
Stars: 3.5 out of 5
SEE ‘IMAGINARY INVALID’
Time: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays through Nov. 11
Location: Paul Green Theatre
The world premiere commission from PlayMakers Repertory Company is a satirical farce with a heavy dose of poop jokes.
But beneath the topical comedy is a pure and relevant heart, beating with anxiety about trials of health care that, despite the passage of time and science, still exist.
“Imaginary Invalid” tells the story of Argan, a severe hypochondriac, as he grapples with his imminent death, the cost of his care and the greedy doctors taking advantage of him.
Ball’s adaptation of the script is heavy with metatheatrical gems.
Steven Epp, in his company debut, plays the evening as Moliere playing Argan.
In the final sequence, Argan collapses and dies from a bloody coughing fit, just as Moliere did in the fourth performance of the play.
Within the bounds of Moliere’s final performance, the plot progresses in hilarious satire.
Katie Paxton, playing Argan’s older daughter Little Angel, nails an airhead performance. Her tone drifts from airy and childlike to deeply devilish when she doesn’t get her way.
Argan attempts to marry off Angel to his doctor’s nephew, Dr. St. Judas, to ensure he receives free and constant care for life. But Angel is deeply in love with a man she met at a play, Irving-Luigi.
This spin on “Romeo and Juliet” — complete with a few Shakespearean jabs — showcased the play’s absurd standout actors, Nathan Keepers as Dr. St. Judas and Josh Tobin as Irving-Luigi.
Judas is a sex-driven, smiling idiot. He bounces around the stage, constantly grinning or laughing, with no idea that he’s more often than not being mocked.
Irving-Luigi is squeaky, love-struck and bent on protecting Angel from being married to the doctor’s nephew. He disguises himself as Angel’s music teacher to keep an eye on her and her father.
He plays his disguise terribly, comedically, and Argan — so wrapped up in his own near-death — doesn’t think anything of it.
The physically comedic interactions between Angel, Judas and Irving-Luigi are palpable. It feels close to overplayed, but on purpose.
Beneath the comedic oddities of the characters, however, is a smart satire that director Dominique Serrand and Ball expect the audience to conform to and participate in.
The doctors boasted names like Dr. Lysol and Dr. Wachauvia, and Argan spoke without hesitation about presenting his daughter “spread eagle” to whomever he wanted her to marry.
Accepting these conventions isn’t for everyone — a notable number of seats were empty after the intermission. It is necessary, however, to get through the layered piece unscathed.
The play is uncomfortable, jarring and sometimes offensive.
But it hits all the right notes, showcasing not only the absurdity that Moliere was praised for in his day, but also that of our modern culture.
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