Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Diego

Imaginary Invalid
The Old Globe
Review by Bill Eadie | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's review of Escape to Margaritaville and David's review of The Revolutionists

The Cast
Photo by Jim Cox
If you've been waiting since 2014 for the return of Fiasco Theatre to San Diego, wait no longer. The sometimes-Shakespearian troupe from Providence, Rhode Island, has descended on The Old Globe's White Theatre stage with a world premiere production of Molière's The Imaginary Invalid that will have you in stitches.

If the name Fiasco Theatre does not trip off the tongue, you may recall The Old Globe's presentation of its stripped-down production of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's musical Into the Woods, featuring piano accompaniment supplemented by various other instruments played by cast members. At the time, I called the production "intelligent, theatrical, emotionally honest, and endlessly engaging." Turns out that this description proves true enough for Fiasco's current production, as well. And why not? Several of the cast members from Into the Woods are back, supplemented by a deft local from the Globe/University of San Diego MFA in classical acting program.

To the play: The title character, Argan (Andy Grotelueschen), is consumed with being treated by various doctors and apothecaries for his ailments, so much so that he has neglected his household, which consists of his second wife Béline (Jessie Austrian), his daughter Angélique (Jane Pfitsch), and Toinette (Emily Young), a servant. Argan is plotting to marry Angélique to Thomas Diafoirus (Paul L. Coffey), son of a doctor (Noah Brody), who is himself about to become a doctor. Argan reasons that by making this match, he will have access to as much free medical care as he wishes. Meanwhile, Angélique has fallen for Cléante (Kevin Hafso-Koppman), while her stepmother Béline plots to ensure that she—and not Angélique—inherits Argan's money.

For those keeping score, Mr. Grotelueschen was a sparkling Milky White in Into the Woods, Mr. Coffey played the Mysterious Man, Ms. Austrian played the Baker's Wife, Ms. Young played Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel, and Mr. Brody played Lucinda, Wolf, and Cinderella's Prince, as well as co-directed with Ben Steinfeld. Mr. Brody and Ms. Austrian co-direct The Imaginary Invalid, while Mr. Steinfeld composed the original music and served as music director.

Part of Fiasco's effectiveness comes from long-term relationships within the company that translate to an on-stage ease with each other in performance. That ease is very much in evidence in this very funny production, and even Mr. Hafso-Koppman, the local performer, fits in well with the ensemble.

Mr. Steinfeld's music is essential to setting the scene and advancing the plot. As before, the cast shows facility with playing instruments, including the cello (Mr. Coffey), the trumpet (Ms. Pfitsch), and the kazoo (Ms. Young).

To single out one cast member for praise would be unfair to the rest, because overall enjoyment comes from collective effort.

The technical aspects are spare but full of surprises. Takeshi Kata designed the set, Emily Rebholz designed the costumes, Russell H. Champa designed the lighting, and Melanie Chen designed the sound.

Even if you're not familiar with Molière's plays, you'll quickly discover that Fiasco's production of The Imaginary Invalid is a delight from start to finish.

The Imaginary Invalid, at The Old Globe through July 2, 2017, Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. The Old Globe campus is located in San Diego's Balboa Park. Tickets are available at the box office, by calling (619) 23-GLOBE [234-5623], or by visiting