Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Illusion"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Carl A. Rossi


by Pierre Corneille
adapted by Tony Kushner
directed and designed by Sarah Friedberg

Amanuensis; Geronte … Tim O’Connor
Pridamant … Paul R. Dixon
Alcandre … Jean Sheikh
Calisto; Clindor; Theogenes … Charles Hess
Melibea; Isabelle; Hippolyta … Hanley Mancini
Elicia; Lyse; Clarina … Christina Burchard
Pleribo; Adraste; Prince Florilame … Jonathan Popp
Matamore … Paul DiMilla

A nifty little theatre company called Small World Big Sky Productions has debuted at the Devanaughn Theatre with its production of Pierre Corneille’s magical comedy THE ILLUSION as adapted by Tony Kushner: a lawyer solicits a magician in her cave for information about his runaway son and is given glimpses of the young man’s star-crossed love life --- oddly, the characters’ names change from glimpse to glimpse but all is explained in a brilliant twist of fact versus illusion. Mr. Kushner has pared down the play to two acts and blended in his familiar soapboxing with a surer hand than in his own scripts and Monsieur Corneille’s winking urbanity, foreshadowing Molière, is the yeast that raises up all that doughy talk.

The Small World Big Sky production is not a complete success --- Sarah Friedberg has directed with a grim (Grimm?) hand that flattens out much of the stylized fun but displays enough style to make me hopeful about future efforts and her period costumes are modest but well-researched (the chameleon-like Devanaughn Theatre adjusts itself to its latest fledgling --- never before have I seen its brick room so small and modest, itself). John Cuff lends invaluable texture with his subterranean light-patterns and Kim Carrell’s fight choreography is actually quite suspenseful when two rivals with pointy steels slice and stab the air only a hair’s breadth from one another.

Ms. Friedberg has the makings of a solid company of actors composed of familiar-enough faces and newcomers and she would do well to hold onto as many as she can, especially Jean Sheikh, a languid, cat-eyed character-comedienne; Charles Hess, a handsome, offbeat fellow who resembles a well-known vocal impersonator; Paul DiMilla, an explosive little clown who was probably a beagle puppy in a former life; and two pretty ingénues, Hanley Mancini and Christina Burchard, who need to soften both their masks and their voices when playing so close to an audience --- if today’s actresses continue to scream their lines at the expense of their natural charm then I say banish the entire classical repertoire save for Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW until they come to their vocal senses.

"The Illusion" (17 - 20 March)
The Devanaugh Theatre at the Piano Factory, 791 Tremont Street, BOSTON, MA
1 (866) 811-4111

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide