What do you get when you have a wealthy hypochondriac, his lovesick daughter, a meddling servant and a gold-digging second wife in one performance? An interesting performance, that’s for sure.
The University of Toledo Department of Theatre and Film will present Moliére’s final play, “The Imaginary Invalid,” Oct. 14 – 16 and Oct. 21 – 23. Performance times are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. All performances will be held in the Center Theatre of the UT Center for Performing Arts.
“The play is a satire of the medical profession, as it existed in the playwright’s time,” said Holly Monsos, director of the play. “Argan, a wealthy man, imagines himself to be very ill… In order to keep his doctor near and his medical bills small, Argan devises a plan to marry his daughter Angelique off to his doctor’s nephew. The fact that Angelique is in love with someone else leads Argan’s servant, Toinette, to devise a scheme to separate Argan from his doctor and to ruin his crazy plan.”
Moliére wrote the play in 1673 and played the leading role of the “invalid” himself. He collapsed on stage during the fourth performance and was carried home, where he died just four days later. In the script, his character chides the writer of the play, Moliére himself, and wishes that in Moliére’s final hours, no skilled doctors would attend him and he would die as a result. According to legend, he is thought to have done just that. This is why the play became known as “Moliére’s final play.”
Monsos was originally the costume designer for the play, but because there was not another faculty member ready for the position, she switched jobs and became the director.
“Although my main focus area is costumes, I have always been involved in many different areas of theatre and have acted and directed previously at both UT and Glacity,” Monsos said
Monsos has changed the play to better fit UT’s needs: by changing the genders of two characters, cutting out two interludes and recreating a third with music composed by a UT grad student, Stephen Cadwell.
“In the finale, the cast does not use English or any language for that matter,” Cadwell, a first-year master’s student in music composition, said. “Molière ridiculed the use of Latin in his day, since many doctors couldn’t use it properly. Because of that, the cast uses this funny mixture of Latin and English which doesn’t make sense and the music takes the place of the words, which was a lot of fun for me.”
According to Cadwell, Monsos also changed the finale to end with a cast musical performance. He says they hope to end the play “on a big note, with a happy audience.” Cadwell said the cast has been really great to work with.
“As a composer, you spend a lot of time with pen and paper,” Cadwell said. “You have to be isolated at times, and as I wrote for this play I kept returning to one particular rehearsal. I was introduced to the cast, they went through the scenes I was to write for, I explained to them how I wanted to help with the music, and then they actually applauded for me. That sort of hope kept me going. The music I wrote came from that place.”
Tessa Lee, a second-year double majoring in nursing and theatre, is playing Angelique, Argan’s daughter. She said practicing her lines for the play has taken over her life and she is excited for people to see all the hard work the cast has put in.
“Having been in love before, I am using those emotions to fuel my actions on stage, so that I am not just pretending to have those feelings,” Lee said. “My favorite part of the entire play is being able to make the play come to life with some of the most hilarious and amazing people. Working with the other cast members has made this experience something I won’t forget.”
Lee says she listens to Monsos very closely when she is giving instructions and insights on a character’s actions.
“Holly’s directing, in a word, is enlightening,” Lee said. “She explains something so clearly and in a way that you can understand that it makes it easier to portray a certain action or emotion.”
The production will incorporate a mix of period and contemporary style. For example, the costuming will be contemporary but will also include period references. Monsos is using the online Project Gutenberg translation by Charles Heron Wall, but the play will maintain its historical and often hysterical period medical information. In Moliére’s day, techniques such as bloodletting, enemas and other forms of bodily purging were common, and theories such as a circulatory system within the body were, in the words of one character, nothing but “pretended discoveries.”
“Satire frequently incorporates a lot of farce, so we’re having a good time adding in physical comedy and pushing these characters as far as we can,” Monsos said.
Showtimes and ticket information can be found on UT’s Theatre and Film Facebook page.