By Randi Somers
Pier One Theatre’s Friday opening of “The Imaginary Invalid,” a modern adaptation of a Moliere musical comedy, is the last production of Pier One’s summer season, and runs through Aug. 31.
The play is a three-act event with musical interludes and dance sequences.
Molière had a falling out with the powerful court composer Jean-Batiste Lully, with whom he had pioneered the comédie-ballet form a decade earlier. He opted to collaborate with Charpentier, Lully’s rival and arguably a more gifted composer.
Moliere was very ill, near death, at the time he wrote “Le Malade Imaginaire.” It turned out to be his last work, as he collapsed during his fourth performance in the lead role of Argan, and died soon after. It was first acted at the Palais Royal Theatre Feb. 10, 1673. He is considered one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature.
Suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, Moliere was seized by a coughing fit and hemorrhaged out while playing the hypochondriac Argan. He finished the performance, but collapsed and died a few hours later.
The play was adapted by Tracy Young and Oded Gross, with music by Paul James Prendergast.
The dying old man Argan, played by Ken Landfield, is deciding the fates (marriage or potential convents) of his two daughters Angelique and Louison. He also deals with a parade of doctors floating treatment after treatment past his seemingly incurable disease.
The show is adapted into a 1960s Paris-set disco musical, a high-energy comedy of arts play where, despite the illness theme, the laughs are almost continuous.
Key performers are Pier One regulars, including Landfield, Jessica Williams, Peter Norton and returning East Coast performer Kevin Ray Johnson.
Directed by Marc Oliver, the play reunites the team that produced last summer’s funny musical, “Next to Normal.” The show is being staged August 16-18; 23-26; and 29-31. General admission is $16, with discounts available. This is last big production of Pier One’s summer season.
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