As faithful followers of this blog know (there must be 2 or 3 of you out there…) I have mixed feelings about illness. On one hand, I like making fun of people who worry about swine flu. On the other hand, I like googling random symptoms and diagnosing myself with rare diseases based on information I can find online. On one hand, I won’t go to doctors or take antibiotics, on the other hand, I’m mildly addicted to Excedrin.
While I may be confused about my feelings on health and well-being, I know exactly how I feel about satire. I love it. So I was very excited to get an invite to The Hypochondriac at the Cell Theatre. The play is a modern adaption of Moliere’s Le Malade Imaginaire in which a very rich man is duped by doctors into thinking he is very ill (with what disease, we don’t know) and needs oodles of expensive medicine and enemas. (So basically, he’s a Hollywood star, except bald and in a bathrobe.)
In this adaption, brought to life by my fellow Revolving Floor contribut0r Chris Harcum (who also plays the title role, Mr. Argan), Matthew Gregory, Shira Gregory and Greg Tito, Moliere’s message about the idiocy of doctors is converted into a critique of our pill-popping society. The set TV played occasional commercials for made up diseases like Wandering Eye Syndrome (when your boyfriend stares down other girls’ shirts) and Mr. Argan’s brother Barry (Douglas Scott Sorenson) reveals a magic cure for heart disease: exercise. (Duh!)
These messages were interesting and relevant, but for me, the real joy of the show was witnessing a kind of comedic brilliance that we don’t see frequently in modern shows. Maybe I’m nerd because I think Moliere is hilarious, but this cast brought the work to life with the perfect blend of vaudevillian slapstick, tight delivery and genuine acting chops. Moliere’s characters are stereotypes, but in The Hypochondriac, they become real in a way that is simultaneously comfortingly familiar and piercingly refreshing. In short: I LOVED LOVED LOVED this show for its ability to entertain, offer social commentary, and remind me of how essential classical theatre is.
For example, nobody writes great women like Moliere does, and Vivienne Leheny, as the brilliant and conniving maid, Toinette, does an invigorating job of proving it. Harcum is impetuous and determined as Argan, rising to the tremendous challenge of playing the ass and victim in a troupe full of willful characters. Kyle Haggerty brings levity and hilarity as a socially inept and idiotic young medical student. As Argan’s hyper-rational brother Barry, Sorenson shines like a beacon into the dark mesh of hysteria and self-absorption that plagues the other characters.
So, in short, I recommend the play. And maybe giving up pills, too. The day after I saw the Hypochondriac, we learned about the Ayurveda in Yoga Teacher Training. Ayurveda is a holistic form of health care that advocates creating a lifestyle suited specifically to one’s constitution. Apparently, I would have no physical or mental problems if I just napped, quit caffeine and ate lots of oatmeal. Easy! (she says from her perch at Starbucks, empty Venti cup faithfully by her side…)
My teacher warned us that choosing this path isn’t easy, but I really think I can! Fare thee well, dear Excedrin. It’s been real.