March 10, 2010

SSU Brings to Life "The Imaginary Invalid" - a Comic Farce on the Trials of Self-diagnosis

As the spring semester unfolds, SSU thespians are prescribing just the right medicine. Feeling under the weather? Don't see a doctor, attend one of the performances of The Imaginary Invalid from March 19-27 in the Event B. Person Theatre.

The Imaginary Invalid, or Le malade imaginaire, is Molière's outrageous 1673 masterpiece which brims with wild physical comedy deliciously over-the-top characters, and a "heavenly" final musical number that has to be seen to be believed. Argan, a rich, eccentric hypochondriac, will do anything to defeat his fear of dying. When he tries to marry daughter Angelique to idiot doctor Thomas Lillicrap, Argan's rebellious children, strong-willed servant, and scheming wife all swing into action to save themselves from the impending domestic disaster. The play deals with issues of self-image, hypochondria, fear of dying, fear of being stuck with the wrong spouse, parental tyranny, and miserliness.

Molière himself played the hypochondriac Argan while he was personally quite ill, and in fact died after the play's fourth performance in February of 1673. Ironically, the physically ill playwright created for himself the role of a well man who imagines himself sick as a way of coping with his fear of dying.

SSU alumni and renowned Molière scholar Dr. Stephen Fleck, a professor at Cal State Long Beach, gives a pre-show talk at 5 p.m. before the Wednesday, March 24 show on how Moliere and his composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier helped invent opera in the musical numbers of The Imaginary Invalid. His talk lasts 50-60 minutes and includes a Q & A period. A light meal, wine and other refreshments will be available to purchase in the Person Theatre Lobby prior to the 6:30 p.m. curtain.

The SSU production honors Molière's structure by including comic/musical interludes done in Commedia 'del Arte style, created by physical theatre wizard, Doyle Ott. He trained at the Clown Conservatory in San Francisco, the Centro Maschere e Strutture Gestuale in Italy, Circus Center, the Dell'arte School, and with the SITI company. He is artistic director of Splash Circus in Emeryville, CA.

Original choreography will be created by Sonoma State dance major, Gloria Rubio.

Director Paul Draper wanted to do The Imaginary Invalid since seeing Garland Wright's 1988 production at the Guthrie Theatre, and decided to do it now after his personal experience with hip replacement surgery.

Original music by Héléne Renaut combines her classical training with her interest in popular genres (folk, pop, rock and even, yes, jazz) in her compositions. Her experience with theater production include writing original music for Marivaux's The False Servant (Abydos Theater, Fall 05) and The Green Bird by Carlo Gozzi (Sonoma State University, spring 06). More on Renaut and her music can be found at

Dramaturg Scott Horstein (the historical and textual advisor) became devoted to France and French theater during three years of working in Paris (and celebrating France's 1998 World Cup soccer victory on the streets of Paris).

Actor Nick Christiansen, who plays Argan, is a recent graduate of the Acting Program at SSU and the Artistic Director of Narrow Way Stage Company in Sonoma County. Christiansen is well known as an actor with Narrow Way, and on the Person Stage where he played in A Flea in Her Ear and Romeo and Juliet.

General admission is $15; faculty, alumni, seniors, $12; students, $8. SSU students admitted free with a valid student I.D. Group and family rates available.

For tickets or more information, visit or call (707) 664-2353.

Jean Wasp
Media Relations Coordinator
University Affairs
(707) 664-2057