Backstage Review: ‘The Imaginary Invalid’ By Molière at Reno Little Theater

~Review by Norm Robins~

~Photos by Zen Media~

Molière’s audience was the French aristocracy and the king himself, Louis XIV, The Sun King. Perhaps a more accurate translation of the title would be The Hypochondriac. This would work better for Molière as he unmercifully ridicules the practice of medicine and the fools who pay for it.

“The Imaginary Invalid” is a fun romp that will leave you on the floor, laughing your head off. I have to shout out for the costuming and the creative way they created the props.
Don’t miss this show!

Dana Nöllsch

Argan, the hypochondriac, wants his daughter Angelica to marry Thomas, a crashing bore and a buffoon, who like his father is a doctor. Bully for Argan! Free medicine, a hypochondriac’s paradise. Thomas says he wants to treat the middle class, not the rich because the rich actually want to be healed. But Angelica doesn’t want to marry Thomas. She is in love with Cléante who is not a doctor.

Argan has two daughters, Angelica and Louise, and a new, younger wife Béline, stepmother to Angelica and Louise. He also has a maid named Toinette. Argan says if his daughters won’t respect his wishes, i.e. if Angelica won’t marry Thomas the doctor, he will send his daughters to a convent and cut them out of a part of his will. Distressed, Béline cries out that no, he can’t do that despite the fact she has an attorney on hand to do just that, to draw up a new, more favorable will.

Argan inadvertently offends his apothecary and enema administrator Monsieur Fleurant. Fleurant says he will stop treating Argan and Argan will die. Toinette, dressed as a doctor, not just any doctor but a self-described world-famous doctor, makes her entrance. She tells Argan everything he has done is wrong and that he should question his treatments and his doctors more. She looks suspiciously like Toinette.

Toinette exits and appears again onstage but now in her maid’s attire. She proposes a test for Argan to see if Béline really loves him. She has Argan lie on a couch ostensibly dead. On hearing the news of Argan’s death she is beside herself with joy. Surprise surprise, this young lady may have married him for his money. Who knew? Argan jumps from the couch and runs Béline off stage. Now they apply the same test to Angelica. She breaks down in grief and decides to become a nun as her father wished. Overjoyed, Argan comes back to life and tells Angelica she can indeed marry Cléante…but only if he becomes a doctor.

And now the denouement, the final part of the play that ties all the loose ends together. (French playwrights and novelists are very structured. They also write in lots of loose ends that cry out for a denouement that they cheerfully supply.) Argan’s brother Beralde asks why he doesn’t become a doctor. That way he can treat himself. Beralde says he knows people who can get Argan the certificate right away. Oh happy day!

It has been said the pen is mightier than the sword. It should also be said the poison pen is mightier than both of them. And don’t forget the old admonition not to antagonize a person who buys ink by the barrel. While Molière doesn’t spare lawyers, pharmacists (apothecaries), opportunists, or prepubescent girls from his wrath he is especially cruel to doctors. Argan is inducted into the medical profession by a cabal of men and women in black robes, black hats, and black pointy-beaked masks. Their ceremony is worthy of a pagan ritual of devil worship. Ouch!

Immediately after Argan’s induction ceremony the first thing he does is write himself a prescription, a happy, felicitous ending to the play. At least he’s happy about it, and that is what he wanted all along.

This play, for its acting, directing, and staging, is not to be missed. The direction is incredibly good. The cast to a person performs beautifully. Chad performing Argan has an energy and a stage presence that are marvelous and unrelenting. Sara performing Toinette is the real hero of the piece, and she rises beautifully to the occasion. Amy’s Béline is pure, unadulterated, unalloyed evil. Katie’s and Caulder’s Angelica and Cléante are industrial strength virginal. Luckily this is a farce so they can pull it off. They also have nice singing voices. Jared’s Thomas could give Groucho Marx a run for the money. Zoa’s Louise is the perfect little snitch dripping of sibling rivalry. And James’ directing is inventive and pure joy to watch.

The Imaginary Invalid will be performed at the Reno Little Theater,

147 E. Pueblo St., Reno, opening March 13th and running until March 29th. For information about ticketing go to www.renolittletheater.org or call 775-813-8900.

Cast:

Argan…………………………………Chad Sweet

Toinette………………………………Sara Mackie

Angelica………………………………Katie Hughes

Béline………………………………..Amy Gianos

Bonnefoy……………………………Robert Zellers

Cléante………………………………Caulder Temple

Mr. Purgon…………………………..Sage Farris

Mr. Diaforus…………………………Nick Josten

Thomas Diaforus……………………Jared Lively

Mr. Fleurant (Apothecary)………….John Walmsley

Louise…………………………………Zoa Clayton

Beralde………………………………..Anthony Mendoza

Directed by…………………………..James Mardock

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