Healing and humor with Kentwood Players’ ‘Imaginary Invalid’

Hypochondriacs may not feel too good while seeing this play. 18.“He sort of falls prey to doctors and schemes and medicines,” said Susan Stangl, who is directing the play and also happens to be a medical doctor with personal insight into real life patients like Argan. “He’s really probably not sick at all, but he thinks he is.” But then again this dose of satire might just be the medicine they need to let them know everything will be all right. The play opens at the Westchester Playhouse tonight and runs through Feb. The Kentwood Players are getting into the medical field with “The Imaginary Invalid,” Moliere’s 1673 satire about a wealthy hypochondriac named Argan, the medical quacks who treat him and his plan for a lifetime of free health care.
It’s silly and funny, yet there is something to take away from it,” said Michele Selin, a Playa del Rey resident who takes on the role of Toinette, the servant who turns out to be much more clever than anyone imagines. Meanwhile Argan’s wife, Beline, who only married him for his money, isn’t happy at having to pay for a wedding while she’s waiting for Argan to die. “It’s hysterical. The only problem is Angelique is already in love with another man, but she gets some help from Argan’s servant, Toinette, to try to end up with her true love.
He decides to marry his daughter, Angelique, to Thomas Diaforrhea, a doctor who is pretty much a medical nitwit but nevertheless can provide a lifetime for free 24-hour medical care. “He’s crazy in that he pretends to be ill to get attention from everyone around him,” said Hawthorne resident Harold Dershimer, who portrays Argan in the Kentwood production. But according to Dershimer, the problem is that after pretending to be sick for so long, Argan now really believes he’s sick. With so many imaginary ailments and medical bills piling up, Argan comes up with a plan to have access to constant medical attention.

The story centers around Argan, the “imaginary invalid” who, in order to get attention, claims to be in poor health. So it makes sense that the Santa Monica resident was not only drawn to this classic because of the comedy, but also by the medical issues it focuses on. He constantly checks his bowel movements, relies on bloodletting, wants his pulse checked regularly and seeks second and third opinions from charlatan doctors. “I wanted the message to be, you know, let’s enjoy it (the play), and it’s funny and lets have fun, but I also wanted people to think about how they respond to their doctors, what they think of medical care, whether we think it’s going in the right direction,” Stangl added.