PlayMakers Repertory Company will present the world premiere of David Ball’s adaptation of Molière’s 17th century comedy The Imaginary Invalid, on Oct. 24-28 and Oct. 30-Nov. 4 and Nov. 6-11 in the Paul Green Theatre in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Dramatic Art. This timely excoriation of unscrupulous elements of the health-care industry was commissioned by UNC’s professional-theater-in-residence.
“Imaginary Invalid is almost always funny,” notes dramatist David Ball. “I wanted my adaptation funnier and closer to the intersection with tragedy than others I’ve seen.”
Dominique Serrand, who is co-founder and artistic director of Theatre de la Jeune Lune of Minneapolis, MN, confesses, “[Imaginary Invalid] is a haunting play for any French director to tackle, being so loaded with the history of its original production.” He adds, “[It is] Molière’s last [play], at the performance of which he died [on Feb 7, 1673], ironically playing the Invalid himself. A bit like walking under a ladder, it is the Molière play at the end of which we, as directors, wonder if this could indeed be our last one as well.”
Serrand says, “The haunting character of the play is certainly one of the defining elements that did provoke me to do it. It is also the immense pleasure to work on a writer’s very last play. Not necessarily thinking about categorizing it within the entire repertoire (is it his very best play? probably not), but admiring the evolution and the richness of invention accrued over all the years of writing.”
He claims, “I am not looking at The Imaginary Invalid as a single play, but as an extraordinary achievement of the writer of Tartuffe , Don Juan , and other great human comedies. The man who stands there in front of you, the Imaginary Invalid named Argan, tortured by the thought that he might be sick although he is not, is performed by Molière, very sick, who actually dies at the end of his own performance of the character he wrote. [The Imaginary Invalid is] A comedy deeply grounded in tragedy.”
PlayMakers guest director Dominique Serrand will stage The Imaginary Invalid with his long-time collaborator Steven Epp in the title role of the rich hypochondriac who employs a veritable flock of quack doctors to treat his imagined illnesses.
Playwright David Ball says, “The chance to work with either director Dominique Serrand or actor Steven Epp is a privilege; the chance to work with both at once is a privilege I could never pass up. Dominique is one of the few true geniuses directing in American theater. Steven is so outrageously good that I would write any role for him he ever wanted to do. Just having a script of mine done is no longer important to this old guy — been there done that a hundred times — but tempt me with Serrand and Epps and I’m all in.”
In The Imaginary Invalid, David Ball says, “A hypochondriac named Argan (Steve Epp) lets his monomania take over his life; he depends on quack doctors and a smorgasbord of enemas to keep him alive. He wants his daughter [Katie Paxton as Little Angel] to marry a famous doctor, so there’ll be a doctor right in the house. But his daughter is in love with someone else. It’s a fun and commonplace little plot that opens the door to a larger world of obsession, sanity, and a sobering confrontation with Death.”
The rest of PlayMakers Repertory Company cast for Molière’s Imaginary Invalid includes (in alphabetical order) David Adamson as Dr. Lysol, Jeffrey Blair Cornell as Dr. Wachauvia, Ray Dooley as Ergo, Julie Fishell as a Nurse, Kathryn Hunter-Williams as Klytemnestra, Nilan Johnson as the Bucket Boy, Nathan Keepers as Dr. St. Judas, Maren Searle as Louise, Josh Tobin as Irving Luigi, and Molly Ward as Toinette. Isabelle Carson DeWitt, John Dreher, Todd Lewis, and Jessica Sorgi play Orderlies.
In addition to playwright David Ball and director Dominique Serrand, the show’s creative team includes PlayMakers Rep producing artistic director Joseph Haj, scenic designer Rachel Hauck, costume designer Sonya Berlovitz, co-lighting designers Marcus Dilliard and Jesse Cogswell, sound designer/engineer Robert Dagit, production manager Michael Rolleri, dramaturg Adam Versényi, and stage manager Charles K. Bayang.
Dominique Serrand says the show’s set is “a scenographic set of spaces creating dynamic and great flow for the play’s surprising happenings…. The lighting is a long gesture, instead of a series of effects[, and the costumes are] Contemporary [but] influenced by the period.”
He also cautions Triangle theatergoers that “The play will include strong language.”
In adapting Molière’s final play for a 21st century audience, David Ball says, he faced three major challenges: “(1) Replicating for modern audiences the outrageous shock value the original had on its audiences. (2) Getting past the expectation that Molière just wrote funny plays without tragic foundation, and accomplishing this without losing the play’s endless comedy. (3) Since French and its robust overtones cannot be translated into American English, finding ways for the robustness of American English to make up fo
r what translation from French necessarily removes.”
Dominique Serrand says that biggest challenge as a director staging The Imaginary Invalid is: “Respecting the playfulness and the original vision of Molière in the performance, including Molière’s own death. He was very sick as he appeared onstage playing the lead character.”
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 23rd Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel preview by Elizabeth Baker: http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2012/10/imaginary-invalid; Oct. 23rd Durham, NC Independent Weekly mini-preview by Zack Smith: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/imaginary-invalid/Event?oid=3168928; and Oct. 10th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh preview by the BWW News Desk: http://raleigh.broadwayworld.com/article/PlayMakers-Presents-IMAGINARY-INVALID-Opening-1024-20121010.
PlayMakers Repertory Company presents Molière’s IMAGINARY INVALID, the world premiere of a new adaptation by David Ball, at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 24-26 Previews, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27 Opening Night, 2 p.m. Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30-Nov. 2, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3, 2 p.m. Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 6-10, and 2 p.m. Nov. 11 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 120 Country Club Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.
TICKETS: $20-$40, except $50 Opening Night (Oct. 27th), $15 Tuesdays, $10 UNC students, and $12 other students.
BOX OFFICE: 919-962-PLAY (7529) or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/single.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919-843-2311, email@example.com, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/groupsales.
NEWS RELEASE: http://uncnews.unc.edu/content/view/5623/107/.
NOTE 1: There will be FREE post-performance discussions with the creative team on Oct. 31st and Nov. 4th.
NOTE 2: There will $8.50 Student Matinees at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 1st and 7th. To reserve tickets, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, click http://www.playmakersrep.org/outreach/matinees.
NOTE 3: There will be an Open Captioned performance at 2 p.m. on Nov. 3rd. For details, click http://www.playmakersrep.org/outreach/allaccess/opencaption.
NOTE 4: Arts Access, Inc. (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) of Raleigh will audio-describe an All-Access Performance at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 6th, which will also feature sign-language interpretation and Large-Print and Braille programs and — if requested in advance by e-mail to email@example.com — a tactile tour of the set.
NOTE 5: At 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 10th and at 2 p.m. on Nov. 11th, there will be FREE post-show “Mindplay” discussions sponsored by the N.C. Psychoanalytic Foundation (http://www.ncpsychoanalysis.org/), the Lucy Daniels Foundation (http://ldf.org/), and N.C. Psychoanalytic Society (http://www.ncpsasoc.org/).
The Imaginary Invalid: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Imaginary_Invalid (Wikipedia).
Molière: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molière (Wikipedia).
David Ball: http://www.playmakersrep.org/ (PlayMakers Repertory Company).
Dominique Serrand: http://www.playmakersrep.org/ (PlayMakers Repertory Company).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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