2/28/2013 - The Illusion attracted director Matt Cahoon as only a play about plays could attract a theater lover.
“There are so many layers here, and it’s some great writing by Tony Kushner,” Cahoon said between rehearsal scenes last Wednesday evening at the Pinkerton’s Black Box Theater.
The Illusion shows at the Stockbridge Theatre in Derry this weekend, and Cahoon says that it’s something theater-lovers especially will enjoy.
“But there is something for everyone here, too: sword fighting, love, comedy,” he added.
The plot: A father wishes to reunite with his estranged son and enlists the services of a powerful sorcerer. A work-obsessed lawyer, he drove his son from his home years before and wants to find out what happened to him.
And so, for a sum, the sorcerer conjures images from the son’s life; however, they’re not quite what the father envisioned they would be. They’re three “illusions,” each of which features his son in a scenario: in love, in dilemma and in drama. What might seem clear in the first scene (it occurs during the French Renaissance, the same time period in which this play takes place) becomes muddled and confused in the second and third, when the same people who were in the first — his son, his son’s lovers, a set of rival suitors — are altered.
“Why have all of their names changed?!” the father demands to to the sorcerer during the second scene. His character is almost like a Scrooge, observing the scenes from afar, but unlike Scrooge, the father has to try to decipher what each illusion represents.
These illusions are not exact representations of his son’s life, as the names of the people and the time and location change. The first occurs during the French Renaissance, the second during the Medieval period, the third in Ancient Greece. However, each person is still playing the same archetype throughout the production.
It all comes together with a big, satisfying twist at the end, said Aaron Compagna, who is playing his first romantic lead in this production. This is what he likes about the play, comparing it to a joke with a punchline. There’s a context to the storyline that you don’t really understand until the end, which is why it works.
Cahoon says that one of the play’s biggest strengths is its writing: Tony Kushner, the same guy who wrote the script for box office-hit Lincoln, is the playwright for this project, which is an adaptation of Pierre Corneille’s 1639 comedy L’Illusion Comique.
Cahoon argues that Kushner is one of the best American playwrights alive, and Compagna said the script makes the lines easy to perform.
“The language is rich, dense and clever, and it flows so well,” Compagna said between rehearsal scenes.
He wasn’t familiar with Kushner before, but many of the actors, like Gina Carballo, follow him closely.
“It’s really thrilling, and a great challenge to be playing these roles,” Carballo said.
She said that at first it was difficult to keep who was who straight; she’d never played so many different roles in a single production before.
This is Part 2 of a year-long “dream” series of plays that Theater KAPOW is putting on. They usually try to put on a comedy during the winter time, but The Illusion is deeper, more rich than your stereotypical comedic production.
“When I first saw it, I thought that it was really funny, but I didn’t realize until I reread it just how many layers are here,” Cahoon said.