Photo by Owen Carey

PORTLAND CENTER STAGE'S current mainstage production is an adaptation of Molière's The Imaginary Invalid, about an elderly hypochondriac (David Margulies, AKA the mayor from Ghostbusters!) who tries to marry off his daughter to a doctor, in hopes of snagging free medical attention.

I can safely say that one thing I never expected to see at PCS was an old man analyzing the bouquet of his flatulence like a fine wine, but Constance Congdon's adaptation leaves no fart joke unmade. Clumsy sexual innuendo plays inadvertent homage to Kevin Smith's backseat-of-a-Volkswagen gag in Mallrats ("back-door intercourse," in this version)—in fact, most of the play's humor feels limply derivative of bolder, funnier cinematic poop 'n' fart jokes, from Blazing Saddles to Dumb and Dumber. (If one were to argue that the majority of the well-heeled audience that thoroughly enjoyed last Saturday's production has likely never seen Dumb and Dumber, I would concede the point.)

The play's action feels flattened by the static set design, despite the best efforts of Margulies and local favorite Sharonlee McLean as his maid. The set only opens up at show's end, when a spooky chorus of masked plague doctors swoops in to remind the audience that this labored farce does, in fact, have a message—it speaks to the dangers of overvaluing the opinions of so-called "experts." Too bad this perfectly reasonable observation was lost in a haze of fart jokes.