June 12, 2021

An enthralling “Illusion”

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“The Illusion” really is an enthralling illusion

The latest play being performed by the Cayman Drama Society at The Prospect Playhouse is Tony Kushner’s “The Illusion”. Whilst I am familiar with most of Kushner’s work, eg. ”Angels in America” (that won him the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1993) and various screenplays, eg. “Lincoln”, I had not seen nor even heard of his stage-play “The Illusion”.

However, knowing his pedigree, I went to the Dress Rehearsal last night (Tue 18) with great expectations. I was not disappointed.

Kushner very freely adapted “The Illusion” from Pierre Corneille’s seventeenth-century comedy, “L’Illusion Comique”. Whilst there is some comedic exchanges between the characters and ‘over the top’ behaviour I would not describe this play as a comedy.

The story, as described in Wikipedia, “follows a contrite father, Pridamant, seeking news of his prodigal son from the sorcerer Alcandre. The magician conjures three episodes from the young man’s life. Inexplicably, each scene finds the boy in a slightly different world where names change and allegiances shift. Pridamant watches, but only as the strange tale reaches its conclusion does he learn the ultimate truth about his son.

The play has very poetic (almost worthy of Shakespeare) dialogue and theatricality, with asides from the performers that seem (but are not) directed at the audience. One memorable line describing the prodigal son is, “He can talk like the Devil, beautiful words, and he scatters them freely, in every direction.”

Never have I witnessed a play where I have heard words sing and swoon. I hung on to every word, wishing I could write like that. Obviously Kishner has a way (or in love) with words.

The set is simple – a cave – with a very clever use of a back lighted scrim where most of the performers make their first appearances before actually coming onto the stage to perform in front of the magician and the father. Whilst the set is simple the costumes are lavish and our Publisher, Joan Wilson, remarked how “fantastic” they were.

We see the prodigal son (I am not naming him nor the other actors as their stage names keep on changing), from a young boy (played by 13 year old Dante Bilchuris) and then as he matures to a handsome lover of women (Ben Tatum) that really gets him into trouble, prison and worse.

He is surrounded by a fair, highborn maiden, her pert and crafty maid, and a set of rival suitors, one arrogant and violent and the other a buffoon who wants to appear strong. Also on hand are two servants, the Magician’s and the high born lady’s. The latter is played by Tamarra Davis, who also appears later – as a MAN!!

With all the name changing and their clothes, plus their style and posturing, will you get ……

Confused? Probably.

Don’t let that bother you. The play is certainly different but it still is a fun production.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and I expect all of you will. Don’t miss out. Go and watch it.

Cast not already named – Stephen Wise, Martin Campion, Gerardo Ochoa-Vargas, Miriam El-Madany (absolutely superb as the fair, highborn maiden), Nicolas Picard, Liam Oko, and MELANIE EBANKS!!!

Melanie is now a professional actor, working in London, and took over the role at the very last minute after someone had to drop out. She plays the pert and crafty maid!

Paul de Freitas (who is also the producer) has quite brilliantly directed this very difficult production and he told me he is a director not a DICTATOR! When I spoke to the cast they all applauded him, saying he allowed them to “find” their roles themselves. His wife, Fay Anne was responsible for the costumes and props. Kirsty O’Sullivan helped with the Character Workshop. Paul also was responsible for the lights and set.

I leave you with the final words from the Magician – “I am a tired old fake”.

Playing at Prospect Playhouse, Red Bay, “The Illusion” commences February Thu/Fri/Sat 20-22, 27-29 until March Thu/Fri/Sat 5-7. All performance start at 7:30pm.

For tickets: www.cds.ky

Tel: +1 (345) 938-1998

IMAGES: Georgina Wilcox

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