The use of theatrical illusion in his groundbreaking "Angels in America" makes it pretty clear that award winning playwright Tony Kushner believes in magic. So it seems a perfect fit that he would choose to adapt Pierre Cornielle's "L'Illusion Comique," a highly theatrical comedic adventure from the 17th century, for contemporary audiences.
Kushner's "The Illusion," like Cornielle's original, follows a remorseful father's attempts to find his estranged son before it's too late.
Pridamant (the father), a dying and desperate man, turns to Alcandre, a mystical, cave-dwelling maven who agrees to help, mostly for her own amusement.
She taunts Pridamant with examples of the power she wields over her servant, Amanuensis, as she conjures up a series of visions that feature the exploits of the wayward progeny, Calisto.
Or is it Clindor? Or perhaps Theogenes?
You see, Alcandre, a wizard with a wicked sense of humor, shows the son in three unique scenarios, all involving a winding road to romance. The comic twist of an ending brings the methods to her madness into focus, much to the delight of the appreciative audience, myself included.
Enrico Spada directs this production with precision, with impressive assistance from his technical staff, scenic designer Caroline Dischell, lighting designer Trey Brazeal and sound designer M. Anthony Reimer.
Dischell has created an underground lair which Reimer punctuates with constant sounds of dripping water and the hint of sounds from the world above. Brazeal's dramatic lighting design enhances the mystical energy that envelopes the wizard and her world.
Kelsey Fisher-Waits shines as the mysterious and commanding wizard, Alcandre. Grant Brown is equally enigmatic as her man servant Amaneunsis, and Matthew Byrne is appropriately distant as Pridamant. Jack Hradecky, steals all of his scenes as the comic buffoon (and audience favorite) Matamore.
The remainder of the cast skillfully play multiple roles, keeping each character separate yet connected, in perhaps the author's cynical editorial on the complexities of romance.
Jacob Artner is the son, who falls madly in love with a woman of means (Briana Golden) who is also being courted by someone more in keeping with her father's idea of a proper mate (Robert Hunter Bry). The woman's trusty maid (Spencer Brady), with her own motivation, chooses to help the earnest suitor in his pursuits.
"The Illusion" is an evening well spent. Catch it if you can.