'The Imaginary Invalid' at the Shakespeare Theatre Company

Are you sick and tired of comic book films with make-believe graphics? Do I have an alternative. Immediately journey to DC's Shakespeare Theatre Company's Lansburgh Theatre. Don't expect something from the Bard. How about something French? Maybe Moliere? You will regret it if you miss this superb, hilarious, entertaining production of The Imaginary Invalid.

And what a joy it is to see Rene Auberjonois in the title role of Argan.  I have to be honest. I'm a huge fan. I recall his role 18 years ago on Broadway in the musical City of Angels.  He's won a Tony Award for the musical Coco.  Just last week he played a child-molester Priest on the television series "Saving Grace".  He was a nicer Priest (Father Mulcahy) in the 1970 smash film "Mash" and he has a recurring role in "Boston Legal". 

Auberjonois is no stranger to Washington audiences. His professional career began at the Arena Stage where he was a member of the company for three years right out of college.

And how did the Shakespeare Theatre Company land this acting icon?  His daughter Tessa starred in three productions there for director Keith Baxter and when there was a discussion with Baxter to mount the The Imaginary Invalid, the STC was selected as the right place for them.

And we are the lucky ones who get the chance to enjoy and enjoy you will.

By the mid-1660's, the playwright and actor Moliere was a favorite of King Louis XIV (who makes a surprise appearance at the STC).  The play was written in 1673 and concerns Moliere's disdain of the medical profession (doctors may want to avoid this comedy). And due to Moliere's affliction of tuberculosis, he knew many members of the medical profession. In fact, due to his illness, Moliere played the leading role of Argan either sitting or laying down. He died after playing the role for the fourth time.

He would have loved this production expertly directed by Baxter which includes three commedia dell'arte interludes which normally are cut from the play.

As usual, the STC has an extraordinary cast to accompany Auberjonois.  Nancy Robinette is superb as Toinette, Gia Mora plays Argan's daughter Angelique with subtle charm and her love interest Clenate (Tony Roach) is adorable with great comedic timing.

Did I mention there is music and dance? How does the STC get the choreographer from Cats  and Phantom of the Opera Gillian Lynne? Well, it helps that her husband of 28 years Peter Land plays Argan's brother Beralde.

Come see the music, the dancing, the comedy, the costumes, the masks, the delight.

 Don't forget to pick up the complimentary publication "Asides" provided by the theater. There is much information about the production and Moliere.

 Thankfully, local audiences get a week's extension to see this wonderful cast and terrific production. You have until August 3 but don't delay. For tickets, call 202-547-1122 or visit www.ShakespeareTheatre.org.

For comments, write to cgshubow@broadwayworld.com.

Photos by Carol Rosegg

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