The Hypochondriac playing in Toronto takes a comedic look at the medical community
Hypochondria is the belief that various physical symptoms lead to serious illness regardless of the existence of medical evidence to support the illness. This belief becomes the driving force behind the highly comedic interpretation of French playwright’s Molière’s The Imaginary Invalid, namely The Hypochondriac adapted by Richard Bean and directed by Harvey Levkoe for East Side Players.
Taking a light-hearted jab at the medical community, The Hypochondriac centers around the life of Argan (Daryn DeWalt) a wealthy, yet frugal, hypochondriac diagnosed and subsequently cured of almost every illness under the sun and yet still convinced that he is severely sick. Within his microcosmic world lives his loving daughter Angelique (Nicole Marie McCafferty) who will either marry the man of her father’s choosing or be sent off to a convent by her scheming step-mother Beline (Valerie Abels). Argan’s nursemaid Toinette (Jane Hunter) and his brother Bonnefoi (Chris Coculuzzi) intervene to show Argan the truth of his imaginary ailment.
As usual I was accompanied by my date Bob, both of us eager for a show to laugh at after a rather stressful week. The show is funny, that goes without saying. I was beside myself laughing with the infectious personality of Jane Hunter’s portrayal of Toinette. Her sarcastic yet dutiful attitude in having to serve Argan, a man whose imagined ailments have made him develop a snarky and rather abrasive personality. Toinette never fails to have a well-thought remark to the many unpleasant requests – like the inspection of stool samples – from Argan. Argan takes the “porcelain throne” to a whole new level with his stylishly art deco office chair that doubles as a toilet, so he never has to leave his study after his daily enema, a procedure he swears by.
Bob and I were both oddly captured by the introduction of the enema machine by Dr. Purgon (Howard Davis) – a rather peculiar Willy Wonka type contraption that…spewed out bubbles. Bob and I shared a few baffled glances when it was brought onto the stage. The complete social awkwardness of Stephen McLarty as Thomas served to capture the audience as well as the song and dance finale which was a fun mockery of the medical profession.
To all those employed in the medical profession (and to all who have, in some way, experienced hypochondria), please take this performance lightly and with medically-approved dose of salt. As humor has been clinically proven to cure melancholia, the blahs and to even extend life expectancy, it is perfectly safe to laugh at one’s self.
– The Hypochondriac is playing at The Papermill Theatre (67 Pottery Road) until June 9 2012.
– Performances run Wednesday to Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm.
– Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for students.
– Tickets can be purchased online at www.eastsideplayers.ca
Photo of Daryn DeWalt as Argan and cast by John McQueen