Arts & Culture

Center stage: This month in theater

By
Arts & Culture Editor
Friday, October 31, 2014

‘The Imaginary Invalid’ | Providence College Smith Center for the Arts | Oct. 31-Nov. 9

Given the subject matter, it is ironic that “The Imaginary Invalid” was the last work produced by Molière, the 17th-century French playwright best remembered for his comedies. The show follows the antics of Monsieur Argan, a hand-wringing hypochondriac. His medical anxieties are so pervasive that in order to secure a live-in doctor, he seeks to play matchmaker between a physician-in-training, whose soporific personality nullifies any charm in his auspicious career, and his daughter, who is almost obsessively besotted with another character.

The play not only pushes the boundaries of just how far Argan will go to remain in good health, but also portrays intriguing gender dynamics given its historical context. While the male characters are insipid, insufferable or absurd, it’s the women who deliver the plot’s meatiest layers — the outspoken maid who reigns supreme in her domestic sphere, the daughter whose love for her father transcends his peculiar behavior and the scheming stepmother whose machinations reveal that Argan’s perceived bodily maladies are the least of his concerns.

 

‘Steel Magnolias’ | Artists’ Exchange, Theatre 82 | Nov. 6-9

For a cult classic that has played on and off of Broadway and was adapted into a Oscar-nominated film, the two-act, four-scene “Steel Magnolias” is surprisingly simple. The story centers around Truvy’s beauty salon in small-town Louisiana and unfolds through the grapevine cultivated by the six spunky Southern dames who frequent it. Their grit and resilience in the face of a friend’s declining health reflect the experiences of writer Robert Harling, who drew his inspiration for “Steel Magnolias” from the humor his family used in coping with his sister’s terminal illness. Though much of the show’s enduring appeal lies in its ability to elicit “laughter through tears,” as one character puts it, the play is more script-oriented than plot-driven — a New York Times review described the banter as “the kinds of sentences that wind up embroidered on decorative pillows.”

 

‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ | Providence Performing Arts Center | Nov. 4-9

It’s hard to go wrong with Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose musical compositions drew national and critical spotlights in productions like “Cats,” “Evita” and “Phantom of the Opera.” But this particular adaptation of the Biblical story of Joseph and his “coat of many colors” — a tale which has garnered enthusiastic reviews since it launched its nationwide tour in Cleveland last March — promises to go beyond the name-brand reputation. The star-studded cast includes Broadway and “American Idol” alums Diana DeGarmo and Ace Young, while bold decisions in costume design and music selection lend contemporary renovations to the show’s nearly half-century shelf life. In the trusted, Tony Award-winning hands of director and choreographer Andy Blankenbueler, audiences can rest assured that “any dream will do.”

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