Indiana Daily Student

Civic Theater brings Moliere to town

The noted French playwright Moliere had a macabre sense of humor.\nWhen he started work on "The Imaginary Invalid" in the winter of 1672, he had been struggling with a chronic, hacking cough for years. He knew he was dying.\nSo Moliere created for himself the part of Argan in the "Imaginary Invalid," a hypochondriac who puts on quite a show for friends and physicians for the length of the play. \nThe irony of a dying actor playing a perfectly healthy hypochondriac proved too rich to resist.\nPerformed at at the Palais Royal Theatre in Paris in 1673 on the commission of Louis XIV, "The Imaginary Invalid" proved to be one of his most well-received works.\nBut Moliere suffered a hemorrhage on stage during the fourth production. He died shortly afterward.\nThe Monroe Country Civic Theater will be staging his swan song through the weekend. The curtain opens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Bloomington Playwright's Project Theater, 308 S. Washington St. The matinee is 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets run $6 for general admission and $5 for students and senior citizens.\nFor director Janice Clezinger, the production is a labor of love.\nShe re-translated the entire play for it, updating all of the outdated idioms.\n"I revised it as closely as I could to the original," she said. "I saw it when I was in Paris many years ago, and it's enchanted me ever since. I've always wanted to direct it, but I only got the chance now."\nA critique of social customs and superstitions, the rollicking comedy centers on Argan, a stock Moliere character. As Tartuffe embodies hypocrisy and Alceste misanthropy, he serves as a moral archetype of hypochondria. Like any satirist, Moliere slung arrows at the defects of man.\nArgan is so convinced of his illness that he wants his daughter, Angelique, to marry the stilted medical student Diaforius. He selfishly entertains the hope that he'll get free advice to medical council.\nBut Angelique finds her approved suitor to be an unattractive dolt. Her passion lies with Cleate, who poses as a music instructor to gain access to his love. To complicate matters further, Argan's gold-digging wife Beline threatens to expose the young lovers.\nSo Angelique turns to her uncle Beralde and his wiley maid Toinette. Although certain disaster seems to loom, a plan is hatched and a frustrated Argan ends up becoming his own doctor.\nThe plot reads like a grand opera. When Moliere penned the classic, quacks tried to treat every last malady either with bleedings or enemas. But Rachael McGinnis, who plays Toinette, said the work still holds true.\n"It's a timeless play," she said. "It questions who you can trust -- who you should put your faith in. Argan just gives money and commitment to these doctors who take him for a ride."\nIn spite of the play's vintage, McGinnis said she had no trouble getting her part down pat.\n"After memorizing them, the lines make sense," she said. "It flows very well. After Moliere says something in one sentence, he explains it in the next sentence."\nAlthough the University Theatre will be putting on Moliere's "The Misanthrope" later this fall, most local theater troupes shy away from 17th century works, opting for more contemporary fare.\n"It's something you're not likely to see in town," said Frank Buczolich, who plays the uncle Beralde. "And it's very well-written and very, very witty"

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