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Bard SummerScape 2012 Presents Emmy & Golden Globe Award-Winner Peter Dinklage in All-Male Production of The Imaginary Invalid, Molière’s Final Comedy of Manners (July 13–22)

Mark Primoff
 Image Credit: Honore Daumier, c. 1850

Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. – The ninth annual Bard SummerScape presents The Imaginary Invalid (“Le malade imaginaire,” 1673), a classic comedy of manners by Molière, France’s undisputed master of the genre. Blending satire with farce in an indictment of the medical profession, The Imaginary Invalid offers a scathing social and political commentary that retains its freshness and bite more than three hundred years after it was written. SummerScape’s innovative, new, all-male production sees the return of husband-and-wife team Peter Dinklage and Erica Schmidt, following their successful collaboration on Bard’s Uncle Vanya; Dinklage, the Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning stand-out star of HBO’s Game of Thrones, puts on women’s dress to join a stellar cast directed by Schmidt, the creator of three previous hit Bard productions. The Imaginary Invalid will be presented in ten performances between July 13 and 22 in LUMA Theater of the Frank Gehry-designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts – a major architectural landmark – on Bard College’s stunning Hudson River campus. The annual SummerScape Gala Benefit dinner precedes the July 14 performance.

This year’s Bard Music Festival, to which, as in previous seasons, SummerScape is themed, explores “Saint-Saëns and His World,” celebrating the life and works of Molière’s compatriot, composer Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921), whose long and remarkable career helped shape the course of French music. Although the great 17th-century dramatist was less than fashionable among Saint-Saëns’s contemporaries, the composer professed himself an aficionado of Molière’s works, enjoying them in performance and personally undertaking reconstruction of the lost incidental music to The Imaginary Invalid.

For Molière, the pen-name under which Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (1622–73) attained immortality, “the purpose of comedy [was] to correct the vices of men.” Through masterly comedies of manners like The Misanthrope, Tartuffe, The Miser, and The Imaginary Invalid, he satirized the hypocrisy and pretension of the ancien régime, winning the adulation of his fellow Parisians and of Louis XIV’s court, though drawing criticism from moralists and the Catholic church. But it has taken posterity to do justice to the full extent of Molière’s achievement, in raising comedy to the pitch of great art, and setting standards by which it has been judged ever since.

His last play, The Imaginary Invalid was first staged in 1673 as a three-act comédie-ballet featuring incidental music by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Targeting both hypochondriacs and the money-grubbing medics who exploit them, its protagonists include the wealthy Argan, who obsessively doses his imagined complaints with costly treatments and tonics; his quack doctor, Mr. Purgon; and his maidservant Toinette, whose wily good sense provides a foil for her master’s lack of it. Argan’s fixation so blinds him to the realities of family life that it is only by faking his own death that he learns the truth about his gold-digging second wife, Béline, and genuinely devoted daughter, Angélique. The playwright himself undertook the title role in the original production; with macabre irony, he hemorrhaged during the fourth performance, and – despite managing to complete the show – died later that evening. His final creation, however, lives on. As American Theatre critic Misha Berson points out:

“Science long ago rejected the bloodletting, purging, and bizarre enemas that were standard curatives in 17th-century France. But though those antiquated practices loom large in The Imaginary Invalid, the play is really about pomposity, greed, and self-delusion – human follies that never go out of style.”

As the imaginary invalid himself, Bard’s all-male cast stars Ethan Phillips, best-known for long-running roles on TV’s Star Trek: Voyager and Benson. Mark Junek plays Argan’s lawyer brother, Béralde. The new production reunites Preston Sadleir and Zach Booth, who recently co-starred Off-Broadway as identical twins in the New York premiere of Edward Albee’s Me, Myself & I. Both undertake cross-dressing roles, Booth as Argan’s duplicitous wife, Béline, and Sadleir as his maligned daughter, Angélique. As rivals for Angélique’s hand in marriage, Danny Binstock – recently seen in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Titus Andronicus – plays her favorite, Cléante, and Henry Vick, who proved “winningly goofy” in Twelfth Night (New York Times), is perfectly cast as her father’s preference, the awkward Thomas Diafoirus. Damian Young, of television’s Californication, Damages, and Law and Order, does double duty as Argan’s two money-grubbing doctors, Mr. Purgon and Dr. Diafoirus, Thomas’s father.

Finally, anchoring Bard’s first-rate company – in women’s dress as the spirited and savvy maid, Toinette – is Peter Dinklage, star of The Station Agent and winner of Emmy, Golden Globe, Satellite, and Scream Awards for his role in the current HBO series The Game of Thrones. The New York Times described Dinklage’s title role performance as “the star attraction” of SummerScape’s Uncle Vanya production in 2008, when Variety applauded the actor’s range and rapport with his director, remarking: “Dinklage projects the same soulful pain as in the film The Station Agent, but Schmidt, his wife, also gives him room to be a fool, using several drunken tirades to provoke bleak laughter.” 

Bard is fortunate that Erica Schmidt, whose numerous honors include Princess Grace, Lucille Lortel, Outer Critics, Drama Desk, and Obie Awards, returns to lead The Imaginary Invalid’s artistic team. She is the creator of three previous SummerScape offerings: The Tender Land (2006), The Sorcerer (2007), and Uncle Vanya (2008), of which Variety observed:

“A Chekhov production demands a balancing act…or else part of the play’s richness will be lost. In her staging of Uncle Vanya at Bard College’s SummerScape Festival, director Erica Schmidt, aided by a sterling team of creatives, gets the balance right.”

That sterling team included lighting designer David Weiner, a four-time Hewes Design Award-nominee and veteran of such Broadway hits as Crazy for You, The Sound of Music, and Godspell. He returns for his third Schmidt-SummerScape collaboration, following Uncle Vanya and The Sorcerer. Costume design is by Andrea Lauer, whose credits include American Idiot on Broadway, and set design by Laura Jellinek, named a “Young Designer to Watch” by Live Design magazine. The New York Times recently described her work as “splendidly evoked in naturalistic detail,” while Stage Grade affirmed that “Jellinek’s innovative, multifaceted set…would get an A-plus from critics.”


Theater at Bard SummerScape 2012


Molière (1622–73)

The Imaginary Invalid (“Le malade imaginaire,” 1673)



Argan: Ethan Phillips

Toinette: Peter Dinklage

Béline: Zach Booth

Angélique: Preston Sadleir

Béralde: Mark Junek

Cléante: Danny Binstock

Mr. Diafoirus / Mr. Purgon: Damian Young

Thomas Diafoirus: Henry Vick

Mr. Fleurant / Mr. Bonnefoy: Kevin Cahoon.


Artistic team:

Director: Erica Schmidt

Costume design: Andrea Lauer

Set design: Laura Jellinek

Lighting design: David Weiner


Friday, July 13, 8 pm *

Saturday, July 14, 3 pm

Saturday, July 14, 8 pm +

Sunday, July 15, 3 pm *

Wednesday, July 18, 3 pm

Thursday, July 19, 8 pm

Friday, July 20, 8 pm

Saturday, July 21, 3 pm

Saturday, July 21, 8 pm †

Sunday, July 22, 3 pm *


Tickets: $45


* Round-trip transportation from Manhattan to Bard is available exclusively to ticket holders for this performance. The round-trip fare is $30 and reservations are required. To make a reservation, call the box office at 845-758-7900.

† Round-trip shuttle between the MetroNorth train station in Poughkeepsie and Bard is available exclusively to ticket holders for this performance. The round-trip fare is $20 and reservations are required. To make a reservation, call the box office at 845-758-7900. Shuttle service is available for all performances of the opera.

+ SummerScape Gala Benefit dinner and post-performance party.


SummerScape theater performances are held in LUMA Theater in Bard’s Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry and celebrated since its opening as a major architectural landmark in the region.


Performances of The Imaginary Invalid have been underwritten by the Martin and Toni Sosnoff Foundation.




SummerScape 2012: other key performance dates by genre



Bard Music Festival, Weekend One: “Saint-Saëns and His World: Paris and the Culture of Cosmopolitanism” (August 10–12)

Bard Music Festival, Weekend Two: “Saint-Saëns and His World: Confronting Modernism” (August 17–19)


Round-trip coach transportation from Manhattan to Bard is available on August 10, 12, 17, and 19, for particular Sosnoff Theater performances. Round-trip shuttle transportation between the MetroNorth train station in Poughkeepsie and Bard is also available for some of the performances. A fare will be charged and reservations are required for coach and shuttle transportation. Check the website for schedules and details.



Emmanuel Chabrier: The King in Spite of Himself 

Sosnoff Theater

July 27* and August 3 at 7 p.m.

July 29* and August 1 and 5* at 3 p.m.


Tickets: $30, $60, $70, $90



Compagnie fêtes galantes

July 6* and 7† at 8 pm

July 8* at 3 pm

Sosnoff Theater

Tickets: $25, $40, $45, $55


* Round-trip transportation from Manhattan to Bard is available for this performance. The round-trip fare is $30 and reservations are required.

† Round-trip shuttle between the MetroNorth train station in Poughkeepsie and Bard is available for this performance. The round-trip fare is $20 and reservations are required. Shuttle service is available for all performances of the opera.



“France and the Colonial Imagination”

Thursdays and Sundays, July 12 – August 12 at 2 p.m. or 7 p.m.

Ottaway Film Center

Tickets: $8



Cabaret, Family Fare, and SpiegelClub

Cabaret $25; Family Fare $15 ($5 for child under 18); SpiegelClub $5



Bard SummerScape Ticket Information


For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, call the Fisher Center box office at 845-758-7900 or visit


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May 2012

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This event was last updated on 07-23-2013