Theatre Review: ‘The Illusion’ at Road Less Traveled Theatre

The cast of “The Illusion” at Road Less Traveled Theatre.

One of the things I like best about Road Less Traveled Theatre’s productions is that you are immediately immersed in the show, or at least in its ambience. Think of last season’s “Glengarry Glen Ross,” when Anthony Alcocer as the ‘motivational trainer’ began the show before the obligatory “please turn off your cell phone” announcements when the house lights were still full up. Or – later that same season – when the radio-drama-on-stage production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” integrated the pre-performance choral group ‘s last numbers into the start of the show. For “The Illusion,” Dave Hayes’ opening line is tight against the end of the pre-show reminders, on an almost fully dark stage with the measured drip-drip-drip of the cave setting punctuating his lines. Pouf! In an instant, you were in the show. Simple. Elegant. Brilliant.

Simple. Elegant. Brilliant.

It’s the subtle nuances like this seemingly small detail that makes “The Illusion” oh so fun. Spoiler alert: pay attention to these moments. Trust me, they hold meaning.

Hayes is Pridamant, a 17th century dad who seeks the guidance of a sorcerer who lives in this cave in France, in a town called Remulac. (Saturday Night Live viewers of a certain age may recall that The Coneheads said they were from France…also the planet Remulack.) He’s wistful and concerned that his son – who ran away as a lad – had vanished. Was he dead? In trouble? Disdained of his lawyer dad who was tough on him?  The all-knowing witch Alcandre – magically portrayed by Lisa Vitrano – would know, and could help. And help she does, by conjuring up images of the boy, now a man, named Calisto (Patrick Cameron). Trouble is, Calisto is in love with fair Melibea (Cassie Cameron) who wants nothing of him….or does she? The machinations of her comely maid Elicia (Sara Kow-Falcone) – who rhymes for a reason – steps in to help…or does she? Alcandre’s magical work is supported by her loyal servant Amanuesis (Rolando Gomez) who has the ability to slip to the other side. He’s silent, says Alcandre, because she’s cut off his tongue and pierced his eardrums…or does she? Calisto has competition from Matamore, hysterically played by Dave Marciniak at his bumbling finest.

This is a show of the senses, above all.  Lynne Koscielniak’s set is transformative without changing. That’s the magic of John Rickus’ lighting design that includes flashes of fire and the lanterns that extinguish and relight themselves before your eyes. Director John Hurley makes good use of the right-sized stage, letting  Calisto energetically leap between the raised surfaces and rocks on the cave floor.

Playwright Tony Kushner admitted to lots of leniency in his adaptation of tragedian Pierre Corneille’s  original French work. It doesn’t disappoint. There’s some witty repartee, some reflective moments about the relationship between fathers and son, and some real moments of wonder about the ability to see beyond what we think is obvious.

What’s abundantly clear is that the cast can’t help but have a blast with this show. Vitrano is as intense as ever as the one with the vision and power. Hayes, despite a few dropped lines, is the perfect picture of an anguished yet skeptical dad.  Kow-Falcone is a deviously devoted as the servant who is charmingly coy.

Running Time: 2 Hours with  10-minute intermission.

 “The Illusion” runs until February 10, 2019 and is presented at Road Less Traveled Theatre. For more information, click here.