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Off-Off-Broadway Review

The Imaginary Invalid

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The Imaginary Invalid
Photo Source: Cameron Hughes
The Queens Players' version of The Imaginary Invalid is Molière updated with expressions such as "doesn't know his ass from his elbow," a pull-my-finger joke, and of course a swine flu reference.

In this adaptation directed by Matthew A.J. Gregory, the bedside circus surrounding Argan, a man with a mysterious illness, is truly big top–worthy. His maid Toinette engages him in violent shouting matches and chases around the house. His wife, Béline, is a Real Housewives clone overflowing with shopping bags. As for the man he wishes his daughter to marry, Thomas Diafoirus is alternately a longwinded, lisping nerd and a nose-picking idiot.

Between scenes, videos of pharmaceutical ads aim to link Argan's dependency on medicine and doctors to today's pill-popping society. While vaguely amusing, they contribute to a confusing sense of time; the play vacillates between contemporary language and references to sous, francs, and humors.

Despite the garish trappings, the original play comes through. Argan's daughter Angélique and Cléante, the young man she wants to marry, are more tamely reinvented than most other characters. An opera they improvise together when Cléante pretends to be a music teacher is played more for laughs than tenderness, but both are there. In addition, Angélique's ecstasy when her father tells her she has a suitor, drawn out until she realizes who he means, builds hilariously, as does Béline's effusiveness toward her husband and feigned disinterest in money.

Robert Sherrane's Argan is a blustery but commanding central figure. As Angélique, Christen Gee is vibrant and sympathetic, and Tiffany Denise Turner is an endearing Toinette. Anthony Martinez is sweet but bland as Cléante. Hailey McCarty stands out in a small role as the freakishly chipper Dr. Fleurant. Best though is Cate Bottiglione as Béline, nailing her all-too-familiar character's every gesture and inflection.

Presented by the Queens Players at The Secret Theatre
4402 23rd St., Long Island City, NY.
May 1431. Wed.–Sun., 8 p.m. (Additional performance Sat., May 23, 4 p.m.)(212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111, www.theatermania.com, or www.thequeensplayers.com.

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