Imago Theater
17 SE 8th Ave, 231-9581
Through Dec. 9

One grows tired of praising Imago Theatre. This internationally renowned company consistently purveys fine productions imaginatively staged. It's spacious digs in lower Southeast Portland provides a strong platform for experimental forays into whatever comes into its founders' heads. Yet their skulls maintain their normal human scale despite the ego-boosting accolades of papers from here to the New York Times.

The company's latest production, an adaptation of Moliere's 1673 play about medical fraud, is consistent with both Imago's bold innovations and its newfound exploration of what can be called--for want of a better phrase--traditional literary theater. Director Jerry Mouawad, working from John Wood's translation, has set the play in a Lebanese household in '80s New York City where Argan (Mouawad) provides the livelihood for numerous quakes with his hypochondriac complaints.

Desiring to draw the medical profession even closer, he decides to marry off his daughter to the son of a doctor. But she is already in love with a slacker musician (Michael Vertlieb). Only the machinations of Argan's level-headed brother (Graydon Kouri), and of Toinette (company co-founder Carol Triffle), the wise housekeeper, restores sense and order to the family. The show is lively, loud, active, and consistently funny in its updatings.

All that out of the way, let the quibblers note this production is not perfect (Reed College, by the way, has mounted a competing production of Moliere's play). We know it's a farce, but there seems to be an awful lot of pointless running around on this stage, dragging out an already long (two and a half hour) play. And Mouawad maintains the voice he used in No Exit, a sort of revving growl. Frankly, it's just a little hard to hear. On the other hand, the play is also well acted by several secondary characters, especially Kouri as the brother and Vertlieb as the slacker. If you have found the current theater season a source of disappointment, Imago's Imaginary Invalid will cure what ails you.