By Bob Hicks
Yes, it’s over. Today is January 6, Epiphany, the day after Twelfth Night, traditional final day of the Christmas season, complete with twelve lords a-leaping and a partridge in a pear tree. Salute them in the rear view mirror, say a fond farewell, and let’s move on.
The diarist Samuel Pepys seemed more than ready to turn his attentions elsewhere on January 6, 1663, when he recorded this among other observations of the day: “So to my brother’s, where Creed and I and my wife dined with Tom, and after dinner to the Duke’s house, and there saw Twelfth Night acted well, though it be but a silly play, and not related at all to the name or day.”
Pepys had notoriously little patience for Shakespeare and his fripperies. What might he have thought, then, of Constance Congdon’s adaptation of Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid, with David Margulies as the hypochondriacal Argan? We haven’t seen it (it opens next Friday, January 14, as Portland’s theater Second Season picks up speed) but the whispers blowing in from backstage are that it’s heavy on the flatulence jokes. Ah, the holy trinity of bodily-function comedy: Beavis and Butthead, South Park, Moliere.
Second Season gets off and running Friday night when Artists Repertory Theatre opens Tracy Letts’s Superior Donuts. The cast includes Bill Geisslinger and Linda K. Alper, a couple of top-rank actors from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, which opens its new season in late February. And the crossovers continue. OSF opens its production of Letts’s biggest hit, August: Osage County, in April. And the festival opens its own version of The Imaginary Invalid — this one adapted by Oded Gross and director Tracy Young, with the excellent David Kelly as Argan — in February.
Moliere’s Invalid, as it happens, premiered in France in 1673, just 10 years after Pepys’ unfortunate brush with Twelfth Night. But by that time Pepys wasn’t keeping his diary anymore. Moliere himself played Argan in the original production — and on February 17, during the fourth performance, he collapsed onstage and soon after died. The imaginary illness was no illusion, after all.
Another potential Second Season highlight coming soon: a staged reading, with playwright Lee Blessing on hand, of his new play A View of the Mountains, which brings his negotiator-hero of A Walk of the Woods into today’s geopolitical picture. Blessing will be watching a good cast (Tobias Andersen, Karla Mason, Laura Faye Smith, Chris Harder) but is also a good reader of his own work, as he showed last fall when he was in town for a reading of his shaggy-dog play Chesapeake. This reading, also for Profile Theatre, is at Theater! Theatre! at 7:30 p.m. Sunday and Monday, January 9 and 10. Tickets at the door only. If you hate football, go Monday night, when a little down-valley ensemble called the Oregon Ducks will be on the tube playing Auburn for the national college football championship. If you don’t want to miss the game, go to A View of the Mountains on Sunday, and expect a crowd of people with the same idea.
For other Second Season highlights, see Friend of Scatter Marty Hughley’s excellent roundup from The Oregonian.
ILLUSTRATIONS, from top:
- “Malvolio and the Countess,” 1859. Daniel Maclise (1806-1870), engraved by R. Staines. Wikimedia Commons.
- Portland Center Stage poster. Design by Rachel Ann Lindsay; Typography by Michael Buchino; Art direction by Francesca Restrepo.