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French Indelicacies 

Vulgarity reigns in GLT's The Imaginary Invalid

If you've lost touch with your inner four-year-old, the one who loves nothing more than poop/butt/fart jokes, you'd be an ass not to see The Imaginary Invalid, now at Great Lakes Theater. This is a show so laden with cheeky puns about buttocks and bung holes, an audience member may qualify for a proctologist's license by the time the curtain falls.

The program states that this play is by Molière, but that claim is largely invalid (accent on second syllable). It has been freely rewritten and placed in a hyperventilated 1960s setting by director Tracy Young and her collaborator, the aptly named Oded Gross.

Gross, a professional play adaptor, screenwriter, and actor, is also a songwriter, recording on the indie "pee pee poo poo" label (not kidding). That is a tipoff to the level of sophistication brought to the witty story Molière wrote long ago, about a hypochondriac, Argan, so obsessed with his phantom ailments he can't enjoy the lush life surrounding him.

Young blasts out a thick and multilayered visual and auditory assault, with music, that never lets a morsel escape without being thoroughly masticated, digested and, yes, eliminated.

The plot is mostly unchanged. Argan's younger daughter, Angelique, is in love with Cleante, but dad has promised her to the nerdy Thomas, son of one of Argan's pals.

As Angelique, Kimbre Lancaster is adorable, though saddled with too many unfunny French shit jokes. Cleante is given a sexy, nicely sung turn by Juan Rivera Lebron, and Ian Gould channels a combination of Alfalfa and Buster Bluth as dweeb Thomas.

Meanwhile, Argan's second wife, Beline, is scheming with lawyer Monsieur De Bonnefoi to steal Argan's fortune. But Argan's brother Beralde and maid Toinette have other plans.

Lise Bruneau is excellent as the conniving Beline, and stunning in her Cruella de Vil floor-length gown. David Anthony Smith comes on all musky and manly as Beralde, who has a thing for Toinette.

Placed on a handsome, airy set designed by Christopher Acebo (who also created the outrageous costumes), the production has an outward look of class. But the script happily wallows in the commedia dell'arte depths.

Much of the new, non-Molière wordplay is of the clunky, punning variety. An apothecary (Miles Gaston Villanueva) is lanced with a human-sized hypodermic needle, and the observers launch predictable "he took a shot" and "pins and needles" japes.

There are also full-blown musical numbers, high-wire pratfalls, and anachronistic references to the health care debate. Add to that micro-mini skirts, a deaf-mute, and a hunchback. And did I mention poop jokes?

The game GLT company approaches this supposed laff riot with appropriate enthusiasm. Tom Ford as Argan is a whimpering mass of mild but, as he perceives them, fatal symptoms. Even though he flashes his bright white choppers a bit too often, Ford capably anchors the mayhem.

But Sara M. Bruner only mines a fraction of the hilarious possibilities of Toinette, never creating a fully dimensional character with tenderness beneath her aggression. Similarly, Jodi Dominick as the hunchbacked sis Luison doesn't fully embody her distorted physicality.

Amid the cacophony, there are fresh moments. J. Todd Adams as De Bonnefoi executes a fall from a ladder that defies description, and when he tells a lie (which is often), he faints in myriad inventive ways.

So if you're up for nonstop action and plenty of attempts at lowbrow humor, The Imaginary Invalid will definitely nuzzle your nether regions.

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