Monday, September 27, 2010

Washington College Stages Moliere's Health-Care Comedy "The Imaginary Invalid"

CHESTERTOWN—Washington College’s Department of Drama will present a timely comedy about health care, Moliere’s 1673 masterpiece The Imaginary Invalid, October 7, 8 and 9, at 8 p.m. in Decker Theatre.

The play fills the stage with outrageous characters and comic shenanigans as it follows the tale of Argan, a hypochondriac who wants his daughter to marry a physician so he can have a doctor in the family. Unfortunately for him and his health anxieties, she much prefers to marry someone else.

As the plot unfolds, we also meet Argan’s personal physician and apothecary, charlatans out to financially bleed their patient; his wife, who is out to dupe him out of his money; and his saucy maid and reasonable brother, who try to show him how foolish he is. The play ends with a parody of a typical French induction ceremony through which a student becomes a physician; and in this farce, the new doctor in the house is none other than Argan!

“Poking fun at 17th-century medical practices can make it a bit easier to take modern-day headlines about fraud and malfeasance in the health-care, insurance and drug industries,” says associate professor of drama Jason Rubin, who is co-directing the play with colleague Polly Sommerfeld, a lecturer in drama.

The play also explores the psychology of the hypochondriac through Argan, Rubin adds. “He is healthy as an ox but views every slight physical and mental discomfort as the beginning of his end. Why does someone like Argan, who has a stunning wife, two adoring children and enough money to make his life comfortable, think that if he does not take his medicine or purge himself he will die? On a superficial level, he simply wants attention. But like all well-developed characters in theater, he also is asking the big questions: Who am I and what is my place on this planet?”

Juniors Michael Zurawski and Alyssa Velasquez lead the 22-member cast as Argan and his maid Toinette. Professor of dance Karen Smith is choreographer, and senior Susanne Vaughn has designed the scenery as part of her Senior Capstone Experience for the Department of Drama.

For the opening musical number, “the Shepherdess,” Washington College lecturer in music Anthony Harvey, a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory, arranged the original melody by Marc-Antoine Charpentier to be recorded by his Baltimore-based ensemble, Charm City Baroque, on recorders, cello and theorbo, a 17th century instrument that resembles a lute. Soprano Anna Burress, a Washington College student, will sing the Shepherdess song live during the production.

For reservations call 410-778-7835 or email Students and senior citizen tickets are $3, general admission is $5.