SMTD resurrects Molière in hilarious ‘The Imaginary Invalid’

Monday, March 28, 2016 - 8:13pm

The School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s Department of Theatre & Drama will close their 2015-2016 season in the coming weekends with a production of “The Imaginary Invalid,” directed by Daniel Cantor, associate professor of Theatre, Acting and Directing.

“The Imaginary Invalid” is a farce written by 17th century French playwright Molière, one of the “iconic playwrights of the Western canon,” according to Cantor. The play tells the story of Argan, a severe, albeit fiscally cheap, hypochondriac who devises a plan to receive free healthcare by marrying his daughter off to a doctor.

SMTD will be performing a 1999 translation and adaptation of the piece by James Magruder for the Yale Repertory Theater. Since Magruder’s adaptation includes musical interludes that reference New Haven, Connecticut and other specific references to the Yale Repertory Theatre, Cantor and his team got permission to change those references to pertain to their production on campus.

Cantor has 30 years of professional theatre experience under his belt, both acting and directing. He has chosen to set this production in the period of the Belle Époque, between 1890 and 1900, instead of the 17th century, in which it was originally written.

“Based on my interpretation of the themes in the play, it encouraged me to set it in this period,” Cantor said. “This period has a particular kind of aesthetic, so the set, costumes, the music are all influenced by that period and that aesthetic.”

To create the aesthetic, Cantor has the help of an artistic team made up of both undergraduate students and faculty. According to a press release, the show’s lighting designer is School of Music, Theatre & Dance junior Abbey Kojima and the costume designer is School of Music, Theatre & Dance senior Lindsay Balaka. Both are BFA design & production majors in the Department of Theatre & Drama. Vincent Mountain, associate Professor of Theatre & Drama Vincent Mountain is the play’s scenic designer. The sound design is by School of Music, Theatre & Dance and Business senior Billy Cedar with music direction by School of Music, Theatre & Dance senior Alex Bonoff.

After the performance on Friday, there will be a “Curtain Call,” a post-performance discussion about the play with Cantor and members of the cast and production team, which will be free and open to all.

On stage, the cast is made up of 18 actors, including an ensemble of seven who will sing, dance and play instruments during the musical interludes throughout the play. 

“It’s a heightened style. It’s somewhat broad; it’s pretty fast,” Cantor said. “It requires a certain degree of actors really having chops, like having technical, mechanical chops to be able to perform almost with a kind of athleticism, and it’s very physical, too, so you need physically skilled performers. So it requires a high degree of skill, but like with any comedy, there’s the style of it, and then inside the style of it you still have to be a character who is trying to get something and who wants something and who really feels things.”

The play includes elements of true satire and social commentary, but most of all, Molière is known for his comedy. 

“He’s one of the greatest comic writers who ever, ever lived,” Cantor said. “So if you do his plays well, and hopefully we’ll do them well, it is just an absolutely great time … I think seeing a really high-energy, vital, hilarious, smart, fun play makes you feel good.”