Brad Powell, left, Larry Bialock, David Starr star in "Invalid."
HPU’s ‘Invalid’ is given fine treatment
The perennial question of whether professional actors should star in college theater productions can be argued either way. Acting skills are ultimately acquired by acting, not by watching others, but working with actors of the caliber of Larry Bialock, Brad Powell and David Starr, three of the professionals in Hawaii Pacific University's "The Imaginary Invalid," can be an important part of the learning process. Add director Joyce Maltby's daughters, Melinda and Becky, both with extensive theater résumés, and "Invalid" has a cast to rival that of any community theater group.
» What: "The Imaginary Invalid," presented by Hawaii Pacific University:
» When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 9
» Place: HPU campus
» Tickets: $20; $14 students, seniors, military and HPU staff; $3 HPU students; discounts on Thursdays
» Call: 375-1282
There are students in the show as well, however, and Danielle Zalopany and Derek Elder distinguish themselves in major supporting roles.
The play is Molière's scathing attack on the doctors of his day. Director Maltby explains in the playbill that 17th-century physicians believed illness was caused by an imbalance of the four "humors" -- blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm. Standard treatment for many health problems was to either remove "bad blood" or administer enemas and large doses of laxatives.
Bialock stars as Argan, a wealthy hypochondriac whose imaginary health problems are exploited by his doctor (Powell) and apothecary (Kevin Craven). Argan plans to cut his medical expenses by marrying off his daughter, Angelique (Zalopany), to his doctor's nephew, the newly graduated Dr. Claude De Aria (Starr), so "there'll always be a doctor in the house." Angelique and Argan's second wife, Beline (Melinda Maltby), both object to the marriage.
Angelique is in love with Cleante (Elder), a young man she met at the theater. Beline, a shameless gold-digger, wants Angelique to become a nun and thereby relinquish her claim to Argan's estate. Once that is done, Beline plans to hasten Argan's demise so that she and her lover (Tim Dyke) will get all his money.
Argan, trusting and easily misled, is aware of little more than his own chronic flatulence. (Toilet humor was apparently as popular in 17th-century France as it is here today. Argan's frequent "outbursts" evoked gales of laughter from the audience on Sunday.)
Bialock is superb in the title role. Wearing a pale yellow nightshirt and cap that combine to make him look like a large yellow lump, Bialock gives an animated physical performance that utilizes his acute sense of comic nuance and broad slapstick skills in equal measure.
Powell and Starr are an excellent duo as the pretentious physician and his socially maladroit nephew. Starr excels at playing inarticulate suitors, and this is one of his best performances.
Zalopany touches the heart as the innocent daughter, a performance that would do credit to a far more experienced actor. In one memorable scene she conveys Angelique's utter aversion to the doltish Claude without saying a word.
Elder seems a bit over the top at first but chews the scenery no less than Melinda Maltby in her comic scenes as the treacherous wife. Both make significant contributions.
And then there's Becky Maltby (Toinette), who gives a crowd-pleasing performance as Argan's loyal but sharp-tongued servant. Becky Maltby also shares credit with Craven and Dennis Graue for creating the original music that adds to the 17th-century ambience.
Peggy Krock (costumes) does such a thorough job disguising Powell and Starr in period garb that they are unrecognizable until they speak.
Purists will note that this adaptation tells the story in two acts instead of three and that anachronistic elements intrude, but the running time feels right and the modern references don't dull Molière's razor-sharp wit.