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Mystery and Humor Abound with the North Coast Rep Presentation of “The Illusion”

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TR Robertson

TR Robertson ….. There is nothing better than a good French farce, unless it is the adaptation of a good French farce, which is exactly what is currently on stage at the North Coast Repertory Theatre, in Solana Beach, with the presentation of award winning playwright Tony Kushner’s adaptation, “The Illusion”. The play, adapted from the 17th century comedy, “L’Illusion Comique”, by French dramatist Pierre Corneille, revolves around a father’s search for his estranged son as he contacts a sorceress who will lead him, visually, on 3 episodes from the son’s life. What ensues is a funny series of misadventures revolving around the son’s supposed romantic escapades filled with twists and turns of the heart. One is reminded of many of the Shakespearean comedies as over-the-top characters surface to play a part in the tale, each entering on and off stage from behind one of the caverns “walls”.

The play, directed by NCRT Artistic Director David Ellenstein who is in his 14th season at NCR, flows with ease in a magical tale that will have a wonderful twist at the end reminding us, as William Shakespeare said in “As You Like It”; “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; they have their

John Herzog

exists and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.” This Ah-Ha moment raised quiet a chuckle from the audience in the final scenes. Along the way, the veteran

cast provided a humorous trip filled with fantasy, intrigue, and mystery – not to mention bits of illusion. After all, in a good farce, who do you believe and what will the twist be in the end?

The majority of the cast played numerous roles (a hint of the ending). The sorceress, Alcandre, was played by NCR vet, Kandis Chappell. Her servant, The Amanuensis, also playing Melibea’s father, was another NCR vet, John Greenleaf. Both provided a mystical beginning to the play, set in a beautiful cave like setting provided by Resident Scenic Designer Marty Burnett. Playing the conflicted father, Pridament of Avignon, was another NCR vet, John Herzog. As the forlorn father, he fluctuated between wanting to find his son, not believing what he was seeing and not being sure he really wanted to know the ending to his quest.

Photos by Aaron Rumley

Along the way, the episodes were presented in true French farce style by a wonderful cast of actors and actresses playing a variety of roles, numerous costume changes, quick paced action and of course, humorous situations. The “lost” son was played by Michael Polak, making his NCR debut. He played Calisto, Clindor, and Theogenes all representing the son in different scenes. His romantic interests were played by Sharon Rietkerk (Melibea, Isabelle and Hippolytal) a veteran of many California theatre productions and Christina L. Flynn (Elicia, Lyse, and Clarina) who was wonderful as the manipulating maid/ladies helper. Playing the suitors and rivals of Calisto…etc. was Paul Turbiak (Pleribo, Adraste, and Prince Florilame), who has numerous theatre credits and an over-the-top crowd favorite Andrew Abelson (Matamore) the flamboyant suitor who faints at the slightest threat of a fight. Andrew is a veteran of theatre, T.V. and film.

The title of the play is “The Illusion” and we are reminded throughout the action on stage that life is many times nothing but an illusion resembling the theatre. Since the play deals with love from a variety of viewpoints, we are reminded that “Love makes the world seem like an illusion” as our infatuations, at times, lead us into unpredictable situations. But another theme of the play surfaces when we are reminded that, “Obstacles are only obstacles until they are overcome”. The comic situations keep us grounded on the surface as the theme of undying love, forgiveness and the choices we make in life hide behind our laughter in the world of the theatre.

Assisting in creating this mysterious atmosphere was effective lighting from Matthew Novotny, background sound from Melanie Chen and an amazing costume and wig collection from Elisa Benzoni, Abby Caywood and Peter Herman.

Playwright Tony Kushner won a Pulitzer Prize for “Angels in America” and is a National Medal of Arts recipient. He also wrote the screenplay for “Angels in America” and Steven Spielberg’s “Munich”.  In 2012 he wrote the screenplay for Spielberg’s “Lincoln” for which he was nominated for an Academy award and he won the New York Film Critics Circle Award. He became the first recipient of the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, the largest theatre award in the United States.

“The Illusion” will be on stage at the North Coast Repertory Theatre until March 19th.  North Coast Rep is located at 987 Loma Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach. Tickets are available at www.northcoastrep.org or call 858-481-1055. Next on stage at NCR is “Travels with My Aunt” by Graham Greene, a New York Times Critics Pick.


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