Despite a couple of neat plot-moving parades set to Ady Cohen’s sprightly music, and one or two sublimely ridiculous scenes, this Imaginary Invalid remains stubbornly earthbound. Worse, except for Yehoyachin Friedlander as the insouciant Beralde, the Invalid’s brother, and Avi Pnini as the deranged Dr. de Kak, nobody seems to be having much fun.
Most of the problem lies with the usually excellent Erez Shafrir’s plodding Argan. Shafrir never quite connects with us or his fellow actors, perhaps because he’s not letting Nissim Aloni’s niftily updated text do some of the work for him.
Argan is an obsessive hypochondriac, aided and abetted by his greedy doctors who are only too happy to pad their bills at his expense.
In order to cut down on his expenses, he determines to marry his daughter Angelique to the dull-witted medical student Thomas Diaphorus, beautifully realized by Ariel Wolf in white tie and tails, pout and spit-curls. For her part, Angelique, disastrously costumed in boots, a peach skirt and white blouse and played rather one-dimensionally by Tamar Alkan, is set on the hip Cleante, an engaging Itay Zvulun who combines innocence with a lover’s guile.
But Argan’s second wife Beline, whose extravagant costumes – made by Dalia Penn Haller – match Carmit Mesilati- Kaplan’s delightfully over-the-top performance, also has plans for Angelique. With her step-daughter safely immured in a convent, she’ll get all Argan’s money.
It’s Toinette, the Clever Servant of the commedia dell’arte tradition, who saves the day. Portrayed with saucy briskness and lots of leg by Irit Pashtan, Toinette shows up Beline, unites the lovers and helps wean Argan from his imaginary ailments.
It all takes place in Argan’s bedroom, here a featureless arc of yellow curtains whose only function seems to be entrances and exits. The big consolation of this uneven production is Argan’s bed. It follows him around like a dog. Delightful.
The Imaginary Invalid
Based on the translation by Nissim Aloni
Directed by Udi Ben-Moshe
Khan Theater, February 11