Directed and Choreographed
by Ruth Griffin 2016
Adapted from the comedies of Moliere by Michael Fields, Donald Forrest, Michelle Linfante and Jael Weisman
To say that Moliere had it out for doctors would be putting it mildly. His farces about medicine include The Flying Doctor (1659), The Doctor in Spite of Himself (1666), Love is the Best Doctor (1665) and The Imaginary Invalid (1673). The Imaginary Invalid would be his final play. He suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis. While he was playing Argan, the hypochondriac, Moliere was seized by a fit of coughing. He finished the performance but collapsed and died a few hours later of a hemorrhage in the brain at the age of 51. Ironic indeed is the well-known story about a conversation between Louis XIV and Moliere in which the King asks how he gets along with doctors. Moliere responds, “ Sire, we talk together. He prescribes remedies for me. I do not take them and I get well.”
The Dell’Arte Players in their adaptation, Malpractice, borrowed from all of Moliere’s comedies about doctors. The doctors in Moliere’s plays never cure anyone and are on stage only long enough to enact their incompetence. The character of the Doctor is borrowed by Moliere from the Italian Commedia Dell’Arte, which emerged in Venice no later than 1538 during Carnival. Its roots extend back to the Comedies of Plautus (254-184 BCE) and the Atellan Farces (391 BCE). The Commedia Doctore is a charlatan who flaunts his knowledge confident that his patients are ignorant. He convinces, charms and frightens people. For money.
An audience at a Moliere play was accustomed to discovering meaning presented aurally in music, visually in set and costumes and kinesthetically in dance and pantomime. Plays involved masks and disguises and seemingly disjointed episodes of comedy melding the traditions of Court Ballet, French Comic Theatre and the Italian Commedia Dell’Arte. All of these elements orbited around the central theme of the play. Love is the Best Doctor was performed at the Court of Louis XIV to the King’s pleasure. Jean Baptiste Lully, as the preeminent composer for his Court, composed the play's music.
I blended the Dell'Arte adaptation, which continues to carry the fresh breeze of street theatre with the sense of an imagined performance for the Court. Its musical sub-score incorporates Lully’s music mixed with Scott Joplin Rags, and Vaudeville accordion music to situate the Doctor’s patter scenes and lazzi that the Dell’Arte Players so ingeniously wrote.