The Imaginary Invalid
Noah Brod , Andy Grotelueschen,and Paul L. Coffey. Photo by Jim Cox.

The Imaginary Invalid

Arrogant doctors, mysterious maladies, incomprehensible jargon.

By Molière
Adapted and Performed by Fiasco Theater
Directed by Jessie Austrian and Noah Brody
Old Globe San Diego
May 27 to July 2, 2017

Arrogant doctors, mysterious maladies, incomprehensible jargon, “The Imaginary Invalid” might be the latest medical drama, rather than a 17th century comedy by the French playwright Molière. No doubt, that is why the play holds up so well. Despite all the discussions of bile and other humors, the fundamental relationships haven’t changed that much.

Argan (Andy Grotelueschen) is a wealthy and very sick man. While it’s unclear what ails him, he’s quite certain he will die within days if he does not receive constant treatment, including pills, potions and enemas. The enemas seem to be a special favorite.

He is surrounded by his current wife, Béline (Jessie Austrian), daughter Angélique (Jane Pfitsch) and sassy servant Toinette (Emily Young), who tolerate his shifting set of maladies.

Early on, Angélique falls in love. At the same time, Argan announces she is to be married. Of course, they are talking about different people. Angélique has fallen for handsome Cléante (Kevin Hafso-Koppman), and Argan is eager to see her wed Thomas Diafoirus (Paul L. Coffey). No surprise that Diafoirus will soon become a doctor.

Based in New York, Fiasco Theater’s mission is to produce “dynamic, joyful, actor-driven productions…” and they certainly succeed here. Their adaptation and spirited performances play up the timeless aspects of the show: costs of medicines, disagreements among competing physicians, the things young people will do for love.

While Grotelueschen is excellent as the simultaneously conniving and credulous Argan, it’s Coffey as Diafoirus who steals the show, dramatizing that someone has to graduate at the bottom third of their class. Globe regular Hafso-Koppman holds his own in a talented cast.

The music is definitely a highlight, as Molière meant it to be. Hafso-Koppman’s talents with the guitar and other instruments have made him the Globe’s go-to minstrel. Pfitsch slays on violin and amuses on trumpet. The other cast musicians are equally sharp.

The play seems ideally suited for the small Sheryl and Harvey White Theater, and Fiasco has a lot of fun with their surroundings, including the hand rails. The direction is excellent, and there’s no doubt that everyone onstage is there to have fun. And that’s really the point of the whole exercise: let’s have some fun.

San Diego,
Josh Baxt has an MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and writes for a local nonprofit. His play, Like a War, was produced for the annual Fritz litz. Josh's short fiction has been published in the anthologies Sunshine Noir and Hunger and Thirst, as well as the journal City Works.