Wednesday, September 27, 2023

W&M Theatre’s New Play Satirizes Current State of Wellness Industry

W&M’s new comedy play “The Imaginary Invalid” will premiere at the Kimball Theatre on Nov. 18. (WYDaily/Nancy Sheppard)

WILLIAMSBURG — The William and Mary (W&M) Theatre Department‘s latest production brings a modern take on French playwright Molière’s classic comédie-ballet piece, “The Imaginary Invalid.”

The play, which will premiere at the Kimball Theatre on Nov. 18, is a comic adaptation of Molière’s final play and classic tale of Argan, a severe hypochondriac who is constantly searching for new treatments.

The production is directed by guest artist, Vanessa Gilbert, who brings a background of theatre, love of puppetry on the stage, as well as humor to the show.

“I knew that theatre was the way I wanted to tell stories as early as four years old, when I saw a production of Two Gentlemen of Verona at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence RI,” Gilbert said. “I started a puppet program at Perishable called Blood from a Turnip, which showcased short form puppet work for grown up audiences because kids shouldn’t get all the puppetry fun. I love using objects as part of a way to tell a story and I know that this comes from my love of puppets. But not marionettes. Those are scary.”

Gilbert is bringing a unique twist to the comédie-ballet art form that blends singing and dance sequences into the script.

“We’ve taken the form to heart and are devising our own versions of interludes for the production that are meant to entertain and satirize our current obsession with health and wellness,” Gilbert said.

The play is a satire on the current state of the wellness industry.

“The pharmaceutical industry keeps churning out medicines to aid every condition but that are accompanied with lists of side effects often worse than the affliction the medicine is meant to cure, even death,” she said. “The play calls this kind of authority out, asking that we instead use common sense and truly listen to our own inner voices.”

Gilbert said that audiences will get a fast-paced, high-energy comedy that will keep them entertained.

“It is bawdy. And by that I mean, embodied,” Gilbert said. “This is not a polite drawing room play in which characters strike a pose and wax rhapsodic about their daily lives.”

“If the body humor doesn’t grab you, the fun of the story will,” she added. “If folks enjoy the American Pie movies or Bridesmaids, this is likely to entertain.”

W&M’s live comedy will run Nov. 18-21 at the Kimball Theatre, 428 W Duke of Gloucester St., at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are available now online, or can be purchased at the Theatre Box Office, Tuesday through Friday from 2 p.m.-6 p.m.

To give back to the community, the department also recently created the TSD Care Ticket Program, in which they will be offering discounted tickets to a different group for every mainstage show, starting with “The Imaginary Invalid.”

All medical professionals and hospital workers can claim one of 50 pairs of discounted seats. Community members of this group will receive tickets at a discounted rate of $7. Tickets can be claimed by emailing, or by calling or visiting the Kimball Box Office.

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