GV hosts 1950s interpretation of Moliere’s ‘The Imaginary Invalid’

Courtesy / GVSU

Courtesy / GVSU

Arie Nienhuis

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Of many other artistic endeavors, Grand Valley State University is host to a vivid and exciting theatre program, with a considerable number of plays, musicals and operas being performed throughout the academic year. A particularly exciting one that students can experience now is a production of Moliere’s 1673 play “The Imaginary Invalid,” re-imagined in a 1950s setting. 

Directed by GVSU theatre instructor Dennis Henry, this fresh take on the centuries-old play is rife with laughs, poignant social commentary and performances from a number of talented GVSU theatre and vocal students. Henry describes the play as a “very good time,” and believes that attendees will be happily surprised by Moliere’s remarkable modern humor. 

“Moliere is amazing modern,” Henry said. “It was written in 1673 France, but the humor is very 2019. The plot is straightforward and enjoyable, and it’s just a great time.”

The production is led by students Jacob Miller and Alyssa Veldman, among others, who give rousing performances in the roles of Argan and Toinette, respectively.

“Doing a restoration style show has very different language than our modern English, so it was very difficult for us to memorize and get into character,” Miller said. “Regardless, it’s one of the favorite shows I’ve ever put together, it’s just hilarious.” 

Miller and Veldman faced a challenge playing lead roles, particularly in being present for the bulk of the show. They felt immensely rewarded by the experience through the moments that may have been difficult.

“(Miller) is on stage for the entire play, so it was very stressful for him while I get a little break,” Veldman said. “Still, I feel like there was a lot I had to do to prepare myself physically, yet I’m very proud in the end.”

Being placed in the 1950s, the show is lined with a number of cultural artifacts from the era, ranging from doo-wop interludes to social slang, all of which the performers had a wonderful time utilizing.

“Our director has added some 1950s slang, some insults,” Miller said. “The style of dress and costumes are lovely, as well. Our costume designers put us into terrific era-specific costumes, like a very nice silk pajama set.”

Although Miller, Veldman and the other performers faced some difficulty in producing this show, such as vocal roadblocks and the late semester stress, they feel incredibly proud of the final product. They shared some advice for students who may want to get involved with similar productions.

“Do it, just audition,” Veldman said. “My freshman year, I didn’t audition, and I immediately regretted it when I saw a production of ‘Cabaret.’ If you enjoy the show, please audition for other shows, it will absolutely be fun.”

“The Imaginary Invalid” will be available to view at the Linn Maxwell Keller Black Box Theatre in the Haas Center for Performing Arts from April 3-7 at 7:30 p.m.