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Eugene Weekly : Theater : 3.10.11

 

Modernizing Moliere

Crazy wigs, flashing lights and fabulous go-go boots have completely transformed a Moliere classic. Never stuffy to begin with, the 17th-century playwrights The Imaginary Invalid has been thoroughly re-booted for a modern audience.

Moliere was writing in the midst of the scientific revolution. New discoveries (the heart pumps blood!) and new inventions (the microscope!) were turning medicine on its head as new ideas mixed with old practices to create a plethora of panacea. On its basest level, The Imaginary Invalid pokes fun at the new medical profession and those who blindly follow its fads and fancies. Yep, still relevant.

This adaptation by Oded Gross and Tracy Young is wild, taking vast liberties with the script and story to set the play in 1960s Paris. The idea behind their concept is that when Moliere played on the French stage of 1673, audiences would have had a similar experience.

Gross and Young may have gone a little too far.

Not that Im complaining. The Imaginary Invalid is hysterical. The play is funny on every level, with everything from erudite references to enema jokes. I was laughing so hard I think I probably spit on the woman sitting in front of me (sorry!). David Kelly is delightful as the hypochondriac Argan, and he is evenly matched, if not slightly overtaken, by K.T. Vogt as the trickster servant Toinette. Christopher Acebos brilliant set is positively teeming with top-notch performances.

The danger in a comedy rollicking at such a dizzying pace is that it can overstimulate audiences, leaving them laughing without much to chew on and making the performance ultimately unsatisfying. Fortunately, Gross and Young have pulled a touchingly human story out of Molieres original. At its heart, The Imaginary Invalid asks us to question how we live during the short time we have on earth. I would suggest you take three of the hours youve been given and spend them laughing at The Imaginary Invalid. ã Anna Grace

Ashlands Oregon Shakespeare Festival runs Feb. 18 through Oct. 9; info & tickets at www.osfashland.org