A Utah Theater Review by Chelsea Benjamin
Want a night of skewed wigs, ludicrous over the top acting, and perfect comedic timing that will have you laughing hours after the curtain has dropped? Come and see Utah Valley University’s The Imaginary Invalid – this farce is not one you want to miss.
When I went to see The Imaginary Invalid last Saturday, I only knew two things about it:
- I was going to see a show about a man who thought that he was sick
- and that I would laugh.
I was greeted on my way in by many people in simple but colorful attire who I later learned were gypsies. They sang, danced, and tried to sell bottles of medicine to the crowd. As the pre-show went on, some audience members were taken behind the middle paneling to go see the Imaginary Invalid, only to come back around as if they had seen some horrible sight. To the delight of the rest of the audience one woman screamed, and after a very large explosion one man came back shuddering, his face covered in charcoal.
Then the show really started, a play with three acts and three interludes, and I loved every minute of it. Argan, played by Howard Fullmer, did a fantastic job in his role as the Invalid going back and forth from acting like he was about to die to being just fine as frustrations caused by family and friends made him forget his imaginary afflictions.
Toinette the maid, played by Coral Chambers, was such an innovative part as she gets assigned an accent at the beginning of the show, and at intermission gets assigned another accent that only ups the number of laughs she gets from the audience. Instantly the audience is on her side as she pesters Argan, knowing full well that he is much too healthy to act the way he does, and reveals to Argan how his second wife is only with him for his money.
Then came Beline, Argan’s second wife played by Zoe Wilde, she was so over the top in both acting and costume that is so befitting a farce that every moment with her onstage had me completely in stitches. Zoe’s performance never left a dull moment.
Many of the actors had at least two roles to play, when not a gypsy they would appear as a physician, apothecary or a member of Argan’s household. One actor stuck out in both parts he played. Adam Hutchinson played both Thomas Diafoirus, and a gypsy used as the butt of the joke during the first interlude. He was not a main character, but he was able to transform his part into something very fascinating to watch.
During intermission, some gypsies stayed out in the theater to once again interact with the audience. I was delighted by one man playing the guitar and serenading everyone with lovely songs as we waited for the start of Act Three. Having the musicians dressed as gypsies gave The Imaginary Invalid yet another layer of authenticity. The musicians were Lisa Thurman and Jason Kelley and they gave a great performance throughout the show, and I loved the added element of live music.
The show took place in two settings, the inside the Invalid’s house and the outside during what I took to be France during the late 1600’s. The changes happened right before the audience’s eyes as every panel was able to swivel around in 180 degree turns allowing for very efficient and quick scene changes. The set was lovely and I was amazed at the amount of detail and the work that must have been put into creating such a set.
The costumes were as authentic as a farce set in the late 1600’s needed to be, and ranged from humble to extremely elaborate depending on the character. Very well done, especially since some of the changes took place right in the aisles of the theater. I could barely keep my eyes off of the very large dresses.
My favorite scenes were the first interlude and the fake death scenes. I don’t want to give any more away, so if I have not been convincing enough that this is a must see show, then come just to see these scenes where not a single person in the audience could stifle their laughter for a good long time. The timing and physical humor was so spot on that it is one of the main reasons why I am going to go see it again.
The Imaginary Invalid plays at Utah Valley University’s Noorda Theatre, 800 W University Pkwy, Orem, UT 84058 from February 28th to March 9th. Call 1-801-863-PLAY or go to: http://www.uvu.edu/arts/ for more information or to reserve tickets. Tickets: $10-$15.00