Arts & Culture

Director wants to have fun with ‘Physician in Spite of Himself’

What the world needs now is fluff, sweet fluff.

That’s what Theater Artists Olympia’s Pug Bujeaud thought when she decided to direct Molière’s 1666 farce “The Physician in Spite of Himself.”

“Sometimes you just want popcorn and a Coke,” she said in a phone interview this week. “Sometimes cotton candy is exactly what you need. This is my version of sitting in front of the television in my pajamas with ice cream.

“It’s sassy and sexy and silly.”

Bujeaud was familiar with the farce, having acted in it when she was a student at Centralia College. Her professor then, Phillip Wickstrom, did his own translation.

“He recently gifted me a copy of that translation,” Bujeaud said. “He said, ‘You know, I had to clean it up to do it at a college back in the ’70s, but take this. Do what you will with it.’ 

She adapted Wickstrom’s translation, changing the setting to New Orleans in the late 1800s.

“I wanted to make it a little more inclusive, because we live in a different world now,” she said. “New Orleans was a huge melting pot. There were Jews and Irish and Cajuns and Yankees. It got its own culture because it had all these different people and blended their cultures.

“We also played fast and loose with gender here and there,” she added.

Bujeaud also upped the show’s sexiness, inspired in part by a line spoken by Martine (Jess Allan), the wife of woodcutter-turned-doctor Sganarelle (pronounced Scan-a-rell), played by Robert McConkey. “She says, ‘I like to be beaten,’ so we thought, ‘Let’s turn this into a romp,’ ” Bujeaud said.

The director was longing for something in the spirit of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

“There’s a certain kind of naïve joy to ‘Rocky Horror,’ ” she said. “That kind of joyful romp seems to have been taken away from us. If you look at any show that deals with sex since the ’80s, it’s all traumatic, and it’s all depressing.

“I had to go all the way back to Molière.”

The angry Martine puts her husband into a situation where he must function as a doctor — a profession the previously good-for-little woodcutter finds surprisingly agreeable.

“I find it the best of trades,” Sganarelle says in the play’s best-known speech. “A shoemaker … can’t spoil a scrap of leather without having to pay for it, but we can spoil a man without paying one farthing for the damage done. The blunders are not ours, and the fault is always that of the dead man.”

The cast also includes Mark Alford, Alayna Chamberland, Heather R. Christopher, George Dougherty, Sara Geiger, Gabe Hacker, Vanessa Postil and Marko Bujeaud, Pug Bujeaud’s husband.

“All of these people are people I love to play with,” the director said. “Everything out there is so depressing. All we’re looking for in this is to have a good time.”

She’s also hoping Wickstrom approves.

“He’s actually coming to see it,” she said. “I’m nervous.”

The Physician in Spite of Himself

What: Theater Artists Olympia presents Molière’s farce about a woodcutter who finds himself practicing medicine — and not without success.

When: 8 p.m. Friday (Dec. 4), Saturday, Dec. 9-11 and 15-17.

Where: The Midnight Sun, 113 Columbia St. NE, Olympia.

Tickets: $15, $12 for students and seniors.

Information: 360-359-3149 or artful.ly/theater-artists-olympia.

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