10 characters. 5F; 5M; 14 pages in length. Approximately 10-15 minutes running time. A comedy for teens (with classroom materials) written by August Mergelman. (3 Credits)

The Honest Impostor is a Comedy of Manners! Argan is a hypochondriac and a poor judge of character. His long-lost brother Alceste is a no-nonsense gentleman who is inconveniently afflicted with a cold. When extraordinary circumstances put Alceste in Argan’s place, the trouble starts. A steady stream of close relations come to call, and consequently, several important relationships, such as pending marital contracts, are severed in the blink of an eye. Argan returns to the French country cottage to find that his life has been turned upside down, but for the worse or the better? This hilarious play also includes added materials including improvisation and acting exercises, a project for students and questions for discussion and research. You can find these other fantastic plays by August Mergelman in our Script Library: Spider Besider, Fancy Nancy & the Ants, Persephone, The Magpies, By Jove, A Merry Interlude at Camelot, Mum’s the Word, The Vixen, Couth, Pantalone’s New Pantalones, The Weaver Girl & the Cowherd, The Dragon & the Pearl, Polly Peachum & the Pirates, Lady Scottish Play, Penny from Heaven, The Cat Noir, Trade Trade Secrets, Jackie & the Beans Talk, North Paws.

As a playwright, August Mergelman has one simple goal: to bring classical works to the modern audience. It seems that so many of the world’s great dramas are obscured by their own magnitude. August does not believe that any of history’s great playwrights would truly want their works to be intimidating or bewildering. First and foremost, they were showman; they crafted their works to be engaging, challenging, and most importantly, entertaining. As a fourth-generation Colorado native, August is proud of his western heritage, which is manifest in several of his western settings. His works have been featured in the Playwrights’ Showcase of the Western Region and the Rocky Mountain Theatre Association’s Playwrighting Competition.

Excerpt from the play:

CAST OF CHARACTERS

Argan — a hypochondriac
Toinette — his maid, veiled and mute
Alceste — a grump
Dorine — his outspoken maid
MME. Diafoirus — a wealthy poetess
Thomas — her son; a physician
Béline — Argan’s fiancée
M. De Bonnefoi —a notary
Angélique — Argan’s daughter
Cléante — her belovèd

(A French country cottage.)

(M. de Bonnefoi creeps into the room from the servants’ entrance. He opens a money purse, only to be disappointed with what he finds.)

M. De Bonnefoi
A meager sum for someone who was dressed in fancy clothes. I guess the miser travels light. That’s just the way it goes. (Hearing something and peeking out the main entrance.) There’s someone coming. Well, well, well. The servant and the miser. I’ll just have to try again, and now I’m all the wiser. Why do they look different now? Oh, well. No time to waste. Thank goodness for the servants’ entrance. I must go with haste.

(Exit M. de Bonnefoi. Through the main entrance, enter Argan, followed by Toinette, who is heavily veiled. While inspecting, Argan places a scarf on a table that is very near the servants’ entrance. He then reclines on the divan, the only substantial piece of furniture in the room. During his monologue, the offstage characters appear in silhouette or under a special light.)

Argan
Toinette, it’s much too stuffy here. Already I can tell that I don’t find the countryside serene, and what’s that smell?… I’d like a visit from my doctor… Ah, but that entails his mother’s poetry, (Shivers at the thought.) and that exacerbates my ailments. I would also like a visit from my fiancée, but lately all she talks about is money, and today I couldn’t bear it. (Sighs.) Lastly, there’s my daughter, Angeliqué. She’s still infatuated with that hoodlum. Every week, or so, he barges in professing he’s an honest lad, but I’ve heard all the rumors. He’s a guilty, thieving cad. Besides, I have already picked her husband. How she carries on about the plans I’ve made for her. I hope she marries soon, that I may have some peace of mind… The worst of all of it is that I still expect them all to come to call on me, right here, before the day is done. Perhaps it wasn’t wise of me to tell them where I’d be. In fact, it doesn’t make a bit of sense—escaping from the noisy city just to find the country noisy. It would be a pity if they traveled here to find that I’d already left… (Struck with an idea.) Tonoitte! That’s it! I have a brilliant plan! We’ll be so deft at dodging them. Let’s leave at once. We have no time to spare. We’ll go back to the city and find peace and quiet there.

(Exit Argan and Toinette, leaving the scarf. On the other side of the stage, through the servants’ entrance, enter Dorine, on tip-toe, followed by Alceste.)

Dorine
Such rustic charm. (To Alceste.) I don’t believe that we were spotted, Master.

Alceste
I should hope not. Being caught would surely spell disaster for a man of my position.

Dorine
Don’t get cross again. You’re in no health to…

Alceste
I’m not ill—I tell you!

Dorine
So you’ve been pretending to be ill by sneezing, coughing, and complaining without end? If you’re not ill, why do you take such pains to make me think you are?

Alceste
Alright, alright, but just the same, our being here right now is doing nothing to reclaim my stolen money purse.

Dorine
Oh, just forget about that purse. I pity he who stole it. As for us, we’re none the worse without it.

Alceste
No, it wasn’t much, but it was all we had, and though the owner of this land may find our story sad, I doubt he lets us stay here uninvited.

Dorine
I’ve a plan for that already. We’ll just let him know that you’re a man of great importance. If he questions that, we’ll huff and puff, and threaten to make trouble for him. He might call our bluff, but it’s unlikely. In a week or so, you’ll send the proper payment to him. For tonight, you have a place to flop.

(There is a knock at the door. Dorine opens it to find Mme. Diafoirus and Thomas.)

Dorine
Well, speaking of the devil.

Mme. Diafoirus
Pardon?

Dorine
You must be the owner of this flea-infested trap.

Mme. Diafoirus
I’ve never heard a peep from you until today, Toinette.

Alceste
Toinette?

Mme. Diafoirus
I think that I prefer the silent version. Argan, darling. Do not try to stand. You’re much too ill. While Thomas checks your vital signs, I’ll read to you my latest stanza. There are several lines I think that you will find particularly eloquent.

(The lines of her poem are on several pages of her journal, causing her to flip through the pages. Thomas opens his black bag and goes to work.)

Thomas
His forehead’s simply burning up, but that’s irrelevant.

Mme. Diafoirus
There once was a merchant of Venice, who spent all his time playing tennis.

Thomas
His blood’s no longer circulating. That’s a welcome change.

Mme. Diafoirus
Society bored him, but ladies adored him…

Thomas
I find the even tempo of his heartbeat very strange.

Mme. Diafoirus
And now he’s a regular menace.

Thomas
I’ve finished the examination. Everything’s been checked. (Closing his bag and standing.) I don’t know how to break this to you, so I’ll be direct… I’ve never seen a man in better health.

Dorine
You must be daft.

Mme. Diafoirus
Did you enjoy my poetry?

Alceste
I neither wept nor laughed, though it was both pathetic and ridiculous at once—not even fit for wrapping fish… (Referring to Thomas.) And as for this dear dunce, I wouldn’t trust the lad to practice medicine upon a corpse.

Mme. Diafoirus
Your words are most offensive. Argan, have you gone completely mad?

Alceste
I’ve never been sane.

Mme. Diafoirus
Consider, then, the engagement of your daughter to my Thomas at an end.

Thomas
But, Mum, you promised!

Mme. Diafoirus
Oh, she never liked you from the start. Within a week, she would have left you with a broken heart.

(Exit Mme. Diafoirus and Thomas. Alceste and Dorine share a moment of silent bafflement, which is broken by a mutual grin.)

Alceste
He never saw a man in better health. He’s spot on there.

Dorine
If he’s so clever, I’ll just call him back here.

Alceste
Don’t you dare!

(Somewhere in the next few lines, Toinette appears in the background, unseen; she takes the scarf and listens for just a moment, scandalized by what she hears. She exits quickly.)

Dorine
She called me by the name Toinette, and then she seemed surprised to hear me speak.

Alceste
Well, I for one would fail to recognize you if you didn’t.

Dorine
Argan, that is quite enough from you.

Alceste
And who, by Jove, is Argan?

Dorine
You ask me as if I knew. I only know that your resemblance to him must be quite uncanny.

Alceste
I did him a favor. Thomas wasn’t right for Argan’s daughter. Wouldn’t you agree?

Why Subscribe?

kk-question box coloredInside Drama Notebook, you will find a huge collection of well-organized lesson plans, scripts for kids, drama activities, 50 drama games on video and more! Membership is only $9.95 a month. Join today and dramatically reduce your planning time while delivering fresh, innovative drama lessons to your students!

If you are new to teaching drama, this site will be a Godsend!

You will immediately feel confident about teaching drama like an expert. The site guides you step-by-step and provides you with materials that you can use right away with your students.

If you have been teaching for years, Drama Notebook will inspire you with a fresh new approach and innovative ideas!

The site is packed with original, innovative lessons and activities that you will not find anywhere else—and new materials are added monthly.