IU Theatre director brings modern-day parodies to ‘The Imaginary Invalid’

Guest post courtesy of IU Newsroom colleague Jaclyn Lansbery:

Medicine has come a long way since 1673, but some things never change.

IU Theatre’s upcoming production of “The Imaginary Invalid” by French playwright Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (most know him by his stage name, Moliere) parodies the modern medical profession just as much as its original counterpart in the late 17th century. Instead of maintaining the original interludes, director Gavin Cameron-Webb used skits that parody the TV show “The Doctors,” which involves a team of doctors answering viewers’ embarrassing medical questions. The interludes also include a parody of drug commercials of 17th-century remedies.

Imaginary Invalid

IU Theatre kicks off its 2013-2014 season with Moliere’s “The Imaginary Invalid.”

The plot follows Argan, a hypochondriac who imagines he is suffering from an illness. His plan is to marry off his daughter, Angelique, to a doctor so he can get free health care in the family.

The production will premiere at 7:30 p.m. Friday, with additional shows Sept. 28, and Oct. 1 to 4, and at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5.

“It’s a play that’s kind of wild,” said Cameron-Webb, who said that most adaptations of the play have omitted the interludes, which some feel don’t add to the plot. “It’s very high-energy, very physical, and sometimes I worry that we were over-doing it — but then I’d re-read the play and realize that no, we were not overdoing it. The second scene that the playwright wrote is a shouting match between master and servant, if a shouting match between master and servant gives you a clue to the style of the play.”

During the fourth performance of the original play in Paris, Moliere collapsed and died from a chronic ailment while playing the main character Argan. Perhaps Moliere’s collapse speaks to not only life’s ironies, but how physically taxing the play is.

Nicole Bruce, an IU senior in the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance, plays Argan’s servant Toinette. She said the most challenging part of acting in a satire was exacting the production’s style with comedic timing.

“In this play, if the circumstances aren’t treated as life and death, forget about it. Then it’s just people saying things in a weird way and running around on stage,” said Bruce, who worked with Cameron-Webb during IU Theatre’s “Richard III” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Cameron-Webb said he hopes to convey the same commentary on the medical profession as Moliere did in the original production.

“So fortunately or unfortunately, medical satire is always talked about,” he said. “So I imagine this play will have some resonance with audiences.”

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