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Ellen Geer is Molière’s ‘Imaginary Invalid’ in
hilarious adaptation by Constance Congdon
TOPANGA, Calif. (June 1, 2016) — Proving that laughter really is the best medicine, Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum presents a fresh and hilarious new adaptation of The Imaginary Invalid — Molière’s skewering of the health care crisis from an entirely different century — by Constance Congdon. The Imaginary Invalid joins the summer repertory season at Theatricum’s spectacular outdoor amphitheater in Topanga on July 9.
Plagued by a growing pile of medical bills, Madame Argan (Ellen Geer), a chronic hypochondriac, will go to any lengths to marry her daughter off to a doctor. Of course, her daughter has other ideas. Joining Geer on Theatricum’s stage are Alan Blumenfeld as Dr. Purgeon; Jonathan Blandino as Beline; Willow Geer as Angelique; Max Lawrence as Cleante; Melora Marshall as Toinette; Katherine Griffith as Fluerant; and Cameron Rose as Claude.
“This new adaptation is hands down the funniest of any translation I’ve ever read,” says director Mary Jo DuPrey, who directed Theatricum’s hit production of August: Osage County last season. “Constance has an incredible knack for landing jokes. The audience will be rolling in the aisles.”
Originally written to amuse King Louis XIV, The Imaginary Invalid (French: Le Malade imaginaire) was, of course, written to be performed by a male actor, as is Congdon’s translation. (Theatricum’s production casts Ellen Geer in the title role… and her daughter Angelique is played by Geer’s real-life daughter, Willow.) When it was first performed in 1673, the playwright himself starred in the role of the intractable hypochondriac — until, in an ironic twist of fate, he was seized by a genuine coughing fit during his fourth performance, collapsed, and died soon after.
Molière (1622-1673) is considered to be the greatest writer of French classic comedy and one of the most brilliant satirists in the history of literature. His keen observations and barbed wit not only deflated the pretensions of society in his day, but focused a brilliant light on universal human foibles and obsessions – human frailties that remain true and modern in any century. Molière transformed French comedy by perfecting a comic method that he developed while working as an actor; The Imaginary Invalid perfectly represents the playwright’s “comédie-ballet” style, recognized for its skillful patterning of dialogue.
Original music for Theatricum’s production of The Imaginary Invalid is composed by Marshall McDaniel; lighting design is by Zach Moore; sound design is by Ian Flanders; costume design is by Vicki Conrad; and the production stage manager is Elna Kordjian.
Recognized for her ability to balance heightened theatricality with truthful storytelling, Mary Jo DuPrey most recently directed Theatricum’s August: Osage County (four Ovation nominations including Best Production and Best Director, and numerous “Best of 2015” lists), and she is currently in rehearsals for a production of Christopher Durang’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at International City Theatre in Long Beach (opening June 10). Other credits include the world premieres of Arroz Con Pollo at the Complex and Jane Doe for Los Angeles Theater Ensemble; What May Fall at Theater of Note (LA Weekly “Pick of the Week”); and Jeffrey Archer’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Ovation and LA Weekly nominations, named to Bitter Lemon’s ‘Best Productions of the Year,’ and part of the Actor’s Co-Op’s LADCC’s Polly Warfield Best Season in Los Angeles Award). She recently musical directed a production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream for Ellen Lauren of the SITI Company. Mary Jo is a faculty member at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and a renowned vocal coach – the only certified West Coast teacher of the Katie Agresta Vocal Technique. She draws on the performance theories of Wesley Balk, former artistic director of the Minnesota Opera, and Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints to create an approach to performance that is bold and highly innovative.
With its one-of-a-kind outdoor setting in the heart of Topanga Canyon and its roots in the 1950s McCarthy-era Hollywood blacklist — when actor Will Geer created the theater as a haven for blacklisted actors — Theatricum is best known for its productions that frame contemporary social issues through the lens of classic literature. Unlike most theaters in the L.A. area that stage continuous runs of a single play, Theatricum performs five plays in repertory each season, making it possible to see all of the plays in a single summer weekend, with many of the same actors performing in two or more.
Theatricum Botanicum has been named “One of the 50 Coolest Places in Los Angeles” by Buzz magazine, “One of Southern California’s most beguiling theater experiences” by Sunset magazine, and “Best Theater in the Woods” by the LA Weekly. “The enchantment of a midsummer night at Theatricum Botanicum [makes it] crystal clear why audiences have been driving up into the hills since Theatricum’s maiden season way back in 1973. Summer Shakespeare doesn’t get any better than this,” writes StageSceneLA. Says Los Angeles magazine, “The amphitheater feels like a Lilliputian Hollywood Bowl, with pre-show picnics and puffy seat cushions, yet we were close enough to see the stitching on the performers costumes. Grab a blanket and a bottle and head for the hills.”
The Imaginary Invalid opens on Saturday, July 9 at 7:30 p.m. and continues through Oct. 2. Tickets range from $10-$38.50; children 4 and under are free. Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley. For a complete schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, call 310–455-3723 or log onto theatricum.com. Visit Theatricum on facebook: facebook.com/theatricum. Follow us on twitter: @theatricum.A
Details for Calendar Listings
‘The Imaginary Invalid’
The Imaginary Invalid — Constance Congdon’s fresh and hilarious adaptation of Molière’s skewering of the health care crisis from an entirely different century. Plagued by a growing pile of medical bills, Madame Argan (Ellen Geer), a chronic hypochondriac, will go to any length to marry her daughter off to a doctor. Of course, her daughter has other ideas. This potent elixir of romantic triangles, double entendres and mistaken identities proves, in the end, that laughter really is the best medicine. Alan Blumenfeld stars alongside Geer as Dr. Purgeon.
• Written by Molière
• Adapted by Constance Congdon (with additional, approved changes by Theatricum Botanicum to accommodate gender switching)
• Original music composed by Marshall McDaniel
• Directed by Mary Jo DuPrey
• Starring Jonathan Blandino, Alan Blumenfeld, Ellen Geer, Willow Geer, Katherine Griffith, Max Lawrence, Melora Marshall, Cameron Rose
• Presented by Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum
Performances July 9–Oct. 2:
• Saturday, July 9 at 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, July 10 at 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, July 17 at 3:30 p.m.
• Saturday, July 23 at 8 p.m.*
• Sunday, July 31 at 3:30 p.m.**
• Sunday, Aug. 7 at 3:30 p.m.
• Friday, Aug. 12 at 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, Aug. 13 at 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, Aug. 20 at 7:30 p.m.
• Sunday, Aug. 21 at 3:30 p.m.
• Saturday, Aug. 27 at 3:30 p.m.
• Saturday, Sept. 3 at 3:30 p.m.
• Friday, Sept. 9 at 7:30 p.m.***
• Saturday, Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m.
• Sunday, Sept. 25 at 3:30 p.m.
• Sunday, Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m.|
*PLEASE NOTE: 8 p.m. curtain (instead of 7:30 p.m.) on Saturday, July 23 only
**Prologue (pre-show discussion): Sunday, July 31 at 2:30 p.m (included in ticket price)
***A French buffet dinner served in the Theatricum gardens will be available for purchase by ticketholders prior to the performance on Friday Sept. 9. Advance reservations required.
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum
1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Topanga CA 90290
(midway between Pacific Coast Highway and the Ventura Freeway)
• Adults: $38.50 (lower tier); $25 (upper tier)
• Seniors (65+), Students, Military Veterans, Teachers, AEA Members: $25/$15
• Children (5-15): $10
• Children 4 and under: free
• French buffet dinner/play combo: call theater for pricing, advance reservations required
The outdoor amphitheater at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is terraced into the hillside of the rustic canyon. Audience members are advised to dress casually (warmly for evenings) and bring cushions for bench seating. Snacks are available for purchase, and picnickers are welcome before and after the performance.