The French playwright Moliere wrote many great farces in his career—Tartuffe, The School for Wives, The Misanthrope, The Miser—many of which I have seen many times over the years. But this reviewer had never seen Moliere’s final play, the play he was performing in when he died, The Imaginary Invalid. A Noise Within and director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott have done the master farceur a great honor with their hilarious and colorful production. Angela Balogh Calin’s scenic design is comprised mostly of hundreds of large glass containers containing multi-colored bodily fluids. She also designed the outrageous costumes.
Argan (Apollo Dukakis), the title character, is obsessed with his health and devoted to his enemas and the resulting flatulence. His faithful servant Toinette (Deborah Strang) puts up with his ticks and foibles but she has a sharp tongue which she is not afraid to unleash. She especially dislikes her master’s new young wife, Beline (Carolyn Ratteray), who ignores Argan’s romantic overtures but is quick to spend his money. She seems more interested in having an affair with Doctor Purgeon (Jeremy Rabb). Beline plots to have Argan’s daughter Angelique (Kelsey Carthew) married off and Argan’s will changed so she inherits all his money. She has enlisted Purgeon in her plot and he brings his oafish nephew Claude De Aria (Rafael Goldstein) to court Angelique. But Angelique has fallen madly in love with Cleante (Josh Odsess-Rubin) whom she just met and can’t stop thinking about. Toinette steps in to give everyone their just endings.
There are disguises, musical numbers and comic mayhem that all unfold beautifully under Rodriguez-Elliott’s sure direction. This production is based on a new translation by Dan Smith that was adapted by Constance Congdon and has a very modern feel to it. Several characters from the original are missing but not missed, and the brisk two-hour running time makes for a delicious theatrical trifle. The cast is marvelous starting with Dukakis’ grouchy hypochondriac and Strang’s resourceful and clever servant. Carthew and Odsess-Rubin are wonderful as the blissfully unaware lovers. Ken Booth’s masterful lighting sets the stage aglow.
A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena. Ends Nov. 19. www.anoisewithin.org or 626-356-3100 ext 1.