The Illusion doesn’t hide its brilliance
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As the third play of the undergraduate season, “The Illusion” has been hailed as the best play to hit the Eldred Theater stage in recent memory. Based off the 17th century French comedy “L’Illusion Comique,” the play takes place in France but contains heavy allusions to American culture. With impressive visual and sound effects as well as impressive performances from the cast, the play was a feast for the eyes, ears and soul. Humorous yet touching, the cast found their stride in this tale of a father, his regret and his seemingly love-struck son.
The play centers on a father, Pridimant, who feels he was too harsh on his only son, Callisto, and due to his remorse over letting his son slip away, he heads to the mysterious cave of the sorcerer Alcandre. Alcandre promises to reunite Pridimant and his son and strengthen their strained, nearly non-existent relationship in the process. With an arrogant attitude, Pridimant strides into the cave with high expectations and a huge ego. The set that makes the cave was appropriately dark and eerie, and Alcandre had wildly kept hair, makeup and dress that added to her mysterious aura. She was played with fervor, yet subtly enough to elicit the appropriate amount of curiosity and she delivered her humorous lines right on cue.
As the play moves forward, showing Callisto’s life, the set moved out of the dark cave into bright and often cheery sets that exuded the romance that we see Callisto partake in. Impulsive and driven by—sometimes overtly—sexual desire, Callisto is the same wild son that Pridimant remembers.
Pridimant becomes more benevolent towards his son as time goes on, however, even as Alcandre’s stories get more confusing. Callisto is played with high energy and zeal and despite some awkward moments in the more emotional scenes, he is played wonderfully.
Callisto’s interactions with the other characters of the story form the meat of the play and some of the more memorable moments. From the lustful women he goes after to his animated employer, Matamore, the dialogue in these scenes is humorous and full of sexual one-liners and quips that elicited some throaty laughs from the audience. Yet between these scenes, the dark cave of Alcandre returned to keep the eerie mood alive and show the audience just how twisted Alcandre and Pridimant are. Matamore is one of the most memorable characters of the play and his wild antics are masterfully captured.
Combining stellar performances from the exclusively undergraduate cast with impressive visual and sound effects that kept the tone of the play brooding with enough space for some humor, this was a great introduction for me as the first play I have seen at Eldred. I was more than impressed and will definitely be returning to the intimate Eldred space to see their last play of the season, “Aliens with Extraordinary Skills.” Catch “The Illusion” this weekend on Mar. 3 or Mar. 4 at 7:30 p.m. or on Mar. 5 at 3 p.m. in Eldred Theater, conveniently located on the main quad, and be ready for a night of twists, turns and laughs.