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Yorktown's Healthy Romp Helps Moliere's 'Invalid'

Keith Boylan, a student at George C. Marshall, reviews "The Imaginary Invalid," by Yorktown High School.

Argan the Miser's body is giving him trouble . . . but what is the source of all this pain and misery? Is it the liver? The spleen? The lungs? Or, perhaps, simply the head? Regardless of the diagnosis, Yorktown High School's performance of "The Imaginary Invalid" last weekend had the audience sick with laughter.

Toinette (Allison Ham) enlists fellow servants (Raphael Regan, Ben Taylor and Philip Baraoidan) in a scheme. Paul Kenney, at rear, plays their master, Argan. (Photos By Jim Coates)

"The Imaginary Invalid" is the story of the hypochondriac Argan (Philip Baraoidan, Ben Taylor and Paul Kenney), an old man who is constantly worried about his health, which he thinks is rapidly deteriorating. Thus, Argan is ardently loyal to his entourage of doctors and pharmacists and decides it would be a great idea for his daughter, Angelique (Emily Johnson), to marry a doctor so he can reap the benefits of the profession and save some money on treatment. Angelique has other plans, however, as she is already deeply in love with young Cleante (Sam Taylor).

With its wildly energetic cast and incredibly fast-paced action, "The Imaginary Invalid" provides an exciting and entertaining performance, from the minute the actors flock into the theater through the aisles of the house, to the end of the semi-musical and pleasantly bizarre "doctrification ceremony" finale. After the initial shock and necessary acclimatization to the Commedia dell'arte style of the play, with light-speed rhymes and transitions that flow like an erratic Dr. Seuss story, the performance is immensely fun and enjoyable.

All of the actors emoted extremely well, especially when one takes into consideration that almost all of them were wearing masks that covered all but their mouths. One standout performance was Emily Johnson's, whose marvelously melodramatic portrayal of Argan's hopelessly romantic daughter was as hilarious as it was well done. Shrieking and sighing her way through the three acts all on her own, while most of the other parts were traded between actors, she dominated the stage with an electrifying presence composed of absurd facial expressions, classic gestures and great vocal variety.

Despite some shaky spotlights, the lighting in the show was well executed, illuminating the entire stage and a good deal of the house, which was appropriate considering the actors had already broken and jubilantly trampled upon the fourth wall within the first few minutes of the show. Overall, this added wonderfully to the style of the play, as did the great three-piece wagon set that swiveled around after each act to reveal a new room.
Yorktown put on a crazy show last weekend, and although "The Imaginary Invalid" had a terrible case of the sillies, it was a wildly amusing romp through Moliere's final play.

By Washington Post Editors  |  November 18, 2008; 12:28 PM ET
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