Students in the theatre program at South Plains College had the audience rolling with laughter with their performances of “The Imaginary Invalid” their first play of the fall semester.
The play, which was held from Nov. 2 – Nov. 4m was written by Molière, who actually collapsed from a coughing fit on stage during his fourth performance as Argan, dying soon after from pulmonary tuberculosis in 1673.
The “Imaginary Invalid” is a French play featuring a hypochondriac named Argan, played by Justin Frayley, who tries to marry his daughter, Angélique, played by Mia Pekowski, to a young and stupid doctor, Thomas Diafoirus, played by Caden Leverton.
Argan wants to do this so that does not have to resolve his past medical bills, and can have cheaper medical bills in the future.
Angélique is in love with the handsome Cléante, played by Ryan Burk, who poses as a substitute music instructor to get closer to her. They even break out into a short song professing their love for each other right in front of Argan, who is too dull to notice what is actually happening.
Meanwhile, Argan’s wife, Beline, played by Kelly Deuvall, has only married Argan for his money, and plots to scam Argan by bringing in her own notary, who is also her lover, convincing Argan to leave his entire wealth and estate to her.
Argan’s intelligent maid, Toinette, played by Tracie Boyd, notices Beline acting suspicious and chooses to investigate. Beline tells Angélique her plan to try to stay close to Argan, and promises to stop terrorizing him while nobody else is around.
Béralde, played by Joel Palma, is Argan’s brother. He visits Argan in his home to talk to him about his actual illness of hypochondria. Argan is having none of it, and they switch topics a few times between who Angélique is going to marry, whether or not Béline is a disloyal wife.
Argan and Beralde also have a discussion about doctors, and how they prey upon the poor to avoid financial and reputable blowback when they end up killing their patients, which happens often. Argan does not believe any of this, and is convinced he will die of his illnesses.
Toinette disguises herself as an old, reputable doctor, and confronts Argan about his health, saying his lungs are killing him, and that his left eye is taking nourishment from the right and needs to be removed, along with one of his arms. This further reinforces the idea that Argan is delusional and will believe anything an alleged doctor would tell him.
Toinette then comes up with a scheme for Argan to pretend to be dead when his wife gets home from her errands. They act out the scene, and a bewildered, excited Beline confesses her happiness that her husband is now dead. Argan confronts Beline and she runs off.
Next, Toinette and Argan do the same skit for Angelique, who is horrified and deeply upset at her father’s death, claiming that he is everything she has ever held dear. With these newfound epiphanies, Argan is convinced to become his own doctor. His family tells him that it is as simple as saying a few words, donning doctor clothing, and the knowledge will just spring up into his head.
The play closes with Argan’s ceremony, validating him as a doctor.
The cast enjoyed their experience rehearsing for “The Imaginary Invalid”.
“This year, everybody is getting along,” said Palma. “Everybody is getting to know each other. It feels like more of a family.”
The cast rehearsed almost daily for the past few weeks, putting in time and effort to learn lines, and the set.
“It’s been very stressful and time consuming,” said Leverton. “Dr. Nazworth is an experience to have, and the friends are worth it.”
The play was a pleasure to watch. It was full of witty euphemisms and had (maybe) inadvertently tackled a few modern issues surrounding healthcare.