The Imaginary Invalid | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Imaginary Invalid

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The Imaginary Invalid, Symposium Theatre Company, at the Organic Theater Company Greenhouse, South Hall. You won't hear much of Moliere's repartee in this rendition of The Imaginary Invalid, not in John Wood's plodding translation or in these actors' leaden midwestern accents, with the occasional oui, monsieur, and mon pere (pronounced "wee," "muhzherr," and "moan pear") dropped in at random. Neither will you see much of Moliere's inventive physical humor, since director Kay Cosgriff keeps most of the action to the far left and right of her stage, forcing audiences to watch as if at a table-tennis match. At the same time she makes virtually no use of the huge bed that dominates D. Scott Carpenter's set, just as she has a character eavesdrop from a fetal position behind a small bench when there's a perfectly functional screen only steps away. This production doesn't even represent period theater styles, for though the actors approach the faux footlights from time to time, the setting has been changed to "sometime during the Industrial Revolution"--judging by the costumes, an era spanning some 200 years.

There's nothing wrong with enthusiastic young artists attempting the classics, and a few of the Symposium participants show talent. But when action and interpretation merely accompany, rather than amplify, the text, and character is sacrificed to self-indulgent shtick, one can only regret that the practitioners failed to do their homework. As my friend remarked outside the theater, "They need more time at l'ecole!"

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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