Press "Enter" to skip to content

Manifest Destinitis, a symptom of colonialism, arrives at the Howard Brubeck Theatre

As more students take a stand against colonialism, Manifest Destinitis arrives at Palomar to offer a different type of critique through comedy.

Manifest Destinitis, a satirical comedy on conquest, premiers on Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Howard Brubeck Theatre. The play, directed by Michael Mufson, is a reinvention of the classical Molière play, The Imaginary Invalid.

Both plays tell the story of a hypochondriac father being taken advantage of and the stories of those closest to him. However, instead of critiquing the medical field as Molière did, Manifest Destinitis uses comedy and satire to talk about the myths of Manifest Destiny and the damage of colonialism.

“With all the controversy these days about who gets to tell the story of our country in the school curriculum… I think that makes this play more relevant because of its strong perspective. The history is being presented here through the lens of the people, the oppressed. And it’s an important reminder about how we understand history through the stories and who gets to tell them,” Mufson said.

While this is a reinvention of a classic, Manifest Destinitis has many similarities and minor differences with The Imaginary Invaldy. Another similarity between the plays is that Manifest Destinitis includes a witty, wise servant who holds the household together. In keeping the tradition of Herbert Siguenza, the writer of Manifest Destinitis, this role will also be a drag role. The character, Tonia, will be played by Johnny Sanchez.

Rehearsal of Manifest Destinitis. Image used with permission from Palomar Performing Arts. Photo credit: Palomar Performing Arts Department

“Before we even started, (Sanchez) just talked about how grateful and amazing it is for him not only to have his Latino culture represented here in a play but also to have a chance to play a drag role,” Mufson said. “Because he is a drag performer outside of college. So to have a play with that kind of representation for him just made the play extremely personal and relevant.”

Mufson added that the other Chicano and Latinx students in the project have also expressed feeling empowered by the representation in the play.

Another change made involves the father, Don Argon, and his daughter. Both versions show a father marrying his daughter to a successful man, but the daughter loves someone else. But in Manifest Destinitis, the daughter, Luisa, is a lesbian with dreams that don’t involve marrying a man. Luisa brings “all kinds of contemporary language and humor” to the play as her character acts as a critique of the patriarchal society.

There will surely be more differences between the plays, but the ones Mufson described seemed to be the perfect small changes for a more modern audience. Mufson also directed The Imaginary Invalid in the ’90s, which gave him a better understanding of how to reinvent this classical play to make it relevant to today’s college students.

The dialogue and story of the play are not the only aspects critiquing colonialism and supremacy. The set design will also highlight these topics. The set design was still being completed at the time of the interview, but Mufson described possibly having details like hunting trophies and war memorabilia to represent colonialism visually.

“I don’t know how much of that is gonna actually make it in… but the idea is that the house is a living representation of the ideology of conquest and domination,” Mufson said.

Mufson believes that the play is relevant to today’s students because of the contemporary references and political ideas weaved into the play’s comedy. And that the “symptoms of the disease, the illness of colonialism,” is something many students are experiencing. While the play references controversial topics, Mufson explained that the references are done with “enough critical distance” so that we can still laugh at them.

Rehearsal of Manifest Destinitis. Image used with permission from Palomar Performing Arts. Photo credit: Palomar Performing Arts Department

“I do want people to walk away recognizing that all these concepts of cultural superiority are inventions that have created harm. But as soon as you recognize that they’re just invented, that empowers us to change the story, tell different narratives, and ultimately, center compassion and empathy. Instead of domination, supremacy,” Mufson said.

For tickets and more information about Manifest Destinitis, visit the Palomar Performing Arts website.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.