Review- Pittsburgh Savoyards’ presentation of The Imaginary Invalid

Review By Britt Haefeli

After nearly two years of a world in pause, life seems to be heading to some sort of normalcy. Actors are returning to their stages, and many are back into the stress of attempting to learn lines.

However, I am sure we can all agree, this stress is sincerely welcomed. For the Pittsburgh Savoyards players, this stress meant learning multiple stages while also possibly donning a multitude of characters. I found myself feeling a new kind of energy as an audience member. There was an excitement and a possible anxiousness to being back in the world of theatre. 

I had the opportunity to witness this particular adaptation of The Imaginary Invalid while its run was taking place at the South Park Theatre. This show is set to continue its run with both the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall and indoors at the Pittsburgh Savoyards.

This experience of Molière in the park, directed by Robert Hockenberry, was new and quaint. I was greeted by multiple smiling faces and was asked if I wished to munch on a bag of popcorn as I awaited the entertainment. 

I looked upon a stage that had been made to replicate a study or some sort of home office. The room held period pieces to draw the audience member into the proper decade, the 1660’s of France. While the year of this story is not the same as the current year, the similarities are extremely vivid. Corruption, greed, a failing health system, money-hungry doctors all graced the South Park Theatre. 

The show begins with Argan, a man afflicted, played by Ned Johnstone. What is bothering him? The man fails to know. The study he seats himself in is decorated with a multitude of bottles; medicine, alcohol, and many other potions. The stage began to fill with colorful characters, all with other ailments or afflictions that will un-doubtfully affect the other. A daughter hopelessly in love, a father helplessly unable to control his bowels, and a maid that is far more cunning than she appears, each character held a great deal of uniqueness against the other. Each distinct difference made very apparent. Perhaps with a more engaging audience, some of these character differences would be more comedic. 

Toinette, a young maid, played by Sarah Krempasky, graced the stage with comedic energy that lit up the stage. However, this ensemble performance made it difficult to always keep the focus on the main characters. Plumm Drupe, who performed a multitude of characters, enriched the audience with laughter. Their characteristics and mannerisms for each character were a delight to witness. This was my first time seeing Molière live; I was curious to see who would shine amongst a character line up like this.

This two-act production had the great fortune of lovely weather but the misfortune of a busy road beside them. I found this outdoor setting for this French comedy classic to be distracting at times, forcing actors to attempt to talk over the sounds of the street next to the audience. I am curious to see this performance in other spaces and commend the players on a satisfying rendition. 

Performances of the Imaginary Invalid continue from July 30th to August 1st, at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie, PA

Additional performances are on August 6th to 8th indoors at the air-conditioned Pittsburgh Savoyards headquarters, 523 Lincoln Ave. in Bellevue, PA.

Click here for ticketing information

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