By Meghan Anderson
Ending the year on a comedic note, Furman Theatre chose The Imaginary Invalid by Moliere as their final show for the year. At first glance, some students might be deterred from seeing the show with its powdered wigs and French translations. Still, the show manages to be amusing and, surprisingly, relatable enough to get audience members chuckling.
The story follows Monsieur Argan, an elderly French aristocrat, whose hypochondria causes troubles for those in his family, but most notably for his daughter, Angelique, whom he tries to marry off to a dim-witted medical student, Thomas Diafoirus, played with impressively subtle yet effective comedic timing by freshman Sam Nelson. Angelique, already in love with another, does not like her father’s options between marriage to someone she does not know and joining a convent.
Jay Oney, a professor in the theatre department, plays the part of Argan well. He is bumbly and silly but not so much that we forget his apparent position of power. His companions, though, steal the show. Kenzie Wynne as Toinette, his rebellious and tricky maid, is delightful. Her movements and little faux-pomp voice are ridiculous, entertaining, and even a little scary at times. Clare Ruble plays Argan’s conniving, money-hunting wife with just enough madness. Alongside them are amusing and wild performances by Argan’s doctor, Angelique’s suitor’s father, Argan’s youngest daughter, and even the apothecary gets a good moment in.
Where the play falls flat is with its less dramatic characters. Spanning three acts with two intermissions, the overly-dramatic appearances can only carry one so long. Sam Feigenbaum delivers a solid performance as Beralde, Argan’s younger brother, but we are introduced to him rather late.
Most of the time, the most relatable characters are that of the two lovers, Angelique and Cleante. Together the two have an endearing chemistry, and both actors are best when they are together. Alone, though, they fall a little flat. Haley Brown as Angelique is slightly one-note by herself and kind of whiney. With Angelique not as likable, it makes it harder for the audience to be invested in her cause, the driving point of the play. Dakota Adams as Cleante does get his bearings, but he lacks a necessary “wow factor” during his introduction that would make audiences want him to be the man to sweep Angelique away.
All that being said, the play does deliver on the technical aspects. The wigs are amazing! The rest of the costumes are great, as well, but those wigs really put you in the mood for some eighteenth century French humor. Props consist of one set, but the play does a good job with it. The furniture is fancy and ornate, as one would expect of a wealthy noble Frenchman’s home, but nothing blocks the view of an audience who nearly surrounds the stage.
All in all, The Imaginary Invalid is humorous, well-dressed, and acted with a dramatic flair. It’s over-dramatization, though, may make it less amusing or too ridiculous for those less familiar with theater.
The show has three more performances, April 10, 11, and 12 at 8 p.m. Tickets are sold at the Playhouse Theatre.