René Auberjonois in The Imaginary Invalid
(© Carol Rosegg)
René Auberjonois in The Imaginary Invalid
(© Carol Rosegg)
"I rarely impose a concept on a play that is outside its period," says British director Keith Baxter about his new production of Moliere's comedy, The Imaginary Invalid, currently being presented by The Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C, complete with period costumes and scenic elements. But Baxter's production isn't the same-same old, same-old. "The play's adaptor, Alan Drury, and I went back to the French texts to insert the opening homage to Louis XIV and a couple of the Commedia Del Arte interludes which have been cut from many translations," says Baxter.

Not surprisingly, Baxter believes the centuries-old work has a great deal of contemporary relevance. "At the time, doctors performed a tremendous amount of enemas and bleedings. Moliere was against the hypocrisy and the amount of money that doctors make and the idiocies of their treatments," he adds. "I'm amazed when I come to America and there are so many advertisements for different medicines. People make a phenomenal amount of money on them, and you never see them on English television."

An award-winning actor himself, Baxter was very particular about the show's casting, which includes Tony Award winner René Auberjonois as the hypochondriac protagonist, and Helen Hayes Award winner Nancy Robinette as the shrewd family maid. "René has a brilliant sense of satire and I think if Nancy were British, she would be a Dame," says Baxter. "American actors are absolutely wonderful, because many of them can act, sing, and dance and that variety in an actor's abilities is quite rare in England."