Review: Evolution Theater Company’s The Illusion

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From the August 16, 2012 edition

Evolution Theater Company calls itself “a new species of theater,” an appealing idea that’s hard to actualize.

That is not, however, to say that the group’s presentation of Tony Kushner’s “The Illusion” isn’t filled with strong performances and a compelling story.

Adapted from the 1636 play “L’Illusion Comique” by Pierre Corneille, “The Illusion” tells the tale of a parent seeking magical visions of the son banished years before.

Pridamant (Catherine Cryan) enlists the help of the magician Akandre (Mark Phillips Schwamberger) to check up on the son she cast off. Pridamant — usually a male character — is loud, rash and quick to point out problems in the visions that are being presented to her, although the terrific Cryan pulls it off with quiet aplomb.

The three visions, which involve her son (CJ Chapman), the woman he is attempting to romance (Lindsey Fisher) and her maid (a fantastic Sonia Bowen), may seem haphazard and confusing, especially as the characters’ names keep changing, but adjusting to it reveals the play’s true intentions.

The play comments on the dichotomy between fact and fiction, reality and theater. Pridamant, who is a lawyer by trade, frequently gets caught up in the small details (like why her son’s name changes from Calisto to Clindor between the first two visions), without seeing the bigger picture of her son’s life.

This production of “The Illusion” isn’t perfect — there are odd staging choices and moments of overacting — but the story is compelling and well worth the effort.

Credit: Skylar Branstool photo