Micah Buckley: Better than Jim Carrey
During a visit to Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida a couple of weeks ago, my wife and daughter and I took in a remarkable stage performance of The Imaginary Invalid. It is a modern, Beth Millis, adaptation of Moliere’s witty parody of the French noble classes. It uses a whiny, spoiled aristocratic hypochondriac to tweak the noses of pompous doctors. Perhaps it is indicative of how little those inbred nobles learned from the great French Revolution that Moliere’s farce still plays to packed houses in that country and lo, even in the United States, leaving crowds rolling with laughter while the doctors in the audience sit in stupefied wonderment.
What was so surprising about this performance was just how good it was. And how underreported it was in the Lakeland Ledger. This was as good as anything I have ever seen on Broadway or West End. And I don’t know who should get the kudos, Gordon Miller, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences or Director Nickolas Dixon, who was also choreographer and sound designer. My guess is that Dixon is the genius but Miller should get some credit for turning him loose instead of applying a short chain.
The casting was uniformly superb, without a weak link in the bunch. One wonders at that. What kind of university drama department casts talent over the sons and daughters of alumni donors, board members and cronies? Not to mention illicit lovers.
The star of the show was Micah Buckley and one cannot help but say, “He reminds you of Jim Carrey.” And one would say that because he is very, very good, always in character, uninhibited onstage, and if he is not like Jim Carrey, well, that is about the closest comparison one can find. But it is not really fair. In fact, he is better than Jim Carrey. Just as funny but a tad less animated and awkward. A true talent.
The unquestioned showstopper was Rossanna Mercedes, who played the hypochondriac’s wily maidservant. Rossanna raced from one scene to the next, confidently tossing her one-liners in a Hispanic accent, letting them drop like little bombs all over the stage, playing her outrageous, comic character as straight as an arrow, indifferent to the audience and as self absorbed as a cocky flamingo dancer.
Jamie Burns was so funny, so clever, so good with such limited lines, that one suspects she and the whole cast were hauled off to see the show on Broadway and copied their appropriate characters. I haven’t the time or interest to check that out. If she copied some good moves from another professional performer, good for her, smart girl, she did it with perfection, which is in itself, a testimony to good acting. If it was at the suggestion of the ubiquitous Dixon, wow. Can you say “underpaid.” But if it was Jamie Burns, herself, expect to see her in your living rooms any day now.
What was truly eerie was that all of this was happening at an Assemblies of God university. We walked out into the night, passing bronzed plaques of District Superintendents, with overgrown side burns from the 1970’s, wire rim glasses with plastic ends, polyester suits and matronly wives with mousy gray hair.
Be assured, there was nothing ungodly in The Imaginary Invalid. The script would sail right past the most fanatic censor from the Potomac District. But the grunts and grinds and malapropisms and choreography on stage showed true irreverent genius. If Moliere had been born and raised in the A-G and had been there that night, enjoying a performance of his work, he would have smiled at the double entendre. Pompous nobles or stern faced religious legalists, both make good foils.
The Imaginary Invalid, performed at SEU two weeks ago, was a triumph of laughter over fear, joy over anger, brains over surly spirituality.