By: Brian Lines
Eastern University’s theater department recently put on “The Illusion,” a play by Tony Kushner that was adapted from Pierre Corneille’s 1634 play “L’Illusion Comique” in 1994. The show is full of romantic drama, passionate rivalries, magic and a look into a complex father-son relationship.
Freshman Amari Dickerson portrayed the unorthodox hero in Eastern’s production of “The Illusion.” Dickerson excellently shifted with the character between a passionate lover to a submissive servant to an ambitious conqueror full of swagger. Dickerson’s well-rounded performance was not alone.
The power of a smaller cast was displayed in full force with Eastern University’s production of “The Illusion.” There weren’t a mess of characters on stage to keep track of, and the performers were able to show off their abilities with a mix of stock and complex characters.
Senior Caitlyn Casey gave a chilling performance of Elicia, the maid. Dancing between a clever servant in search of intrigue and an impoverished woman seeking wealth and love, Casey displayed a fantastic and eye-catching performance in every scene.
Sophomore Richie Izzo gave the show a level of physical comedy that was carefully balanced with a more intimidating character by the end of the show. Izzo, essentially playing the rival to Dickerson’s character across the show, had the audience laughing away in one scene and silenced at the killing of Dickerson’s character in another. Additionally, Izzo also composed the dramatic score for the show, which certainly added to the tone throughout.
Across the three major scenes in the show, the transition to the final third displayed darker and perhaps more realistic characters and themes. This transition is highlighted by Megan Odland’s performance as Melibea, the love interest to Dickerson’s character.
While Odland plays a rather stock and Shakespearean lady with little to no agency in the first two scenes, her acting truly came forth in the final third. Having been married to Dickerson’s Calisto for some time and realizing that he has been having an affair, Odland’s Melibea confronts Calisto, creating the most relationally tense scene in the show. This scene is reminiscent of Henrik Ibsen’s final act in “A Doll’s House.”
Seth Miller steps into the show in the second scene with the rather unexpectedly entertaining and surprising Matamore. Matamore, resembling the Commedia dell’arte stock character of Il Capitano, is a braggart soldier who is really a coward who wants the attention and adoration of those around him. Miller joins Izzo in providing the majority of the comedy in the show.
“The Illusion” is a tricky play because it works more like a play within a play; most of the action takes place in performance being displayed in a cave by two mysterious characters for the old man, Pridamant. Rachel Macolino’s performance as the aging, regretful father of Calisto can’t be overlooked. While Macolino spends most of the play watching the action, it is almost like the action is coming from within Pridamant’s head and memories. Macolino captured the complexity of a father full of pride but also regret and fear.
Working the stage the entirety of the play alongside Macolino is Carly Mills’ Alcandre and Caroline Herring’s Amanuensis. Mills’ gave such an enthusiastic and passionate performance as Alcandre, the strange magician who provides the illusions throughout the show, it felt as if she was born for the role. Between the laughter and dramatic movement, Mills’s performance brought laughter and chills.
Meanwhile, Herring’s performance as Amanuensis, the rather unwilling servant of Alcandre, was stellar. Herring’s crawling across the stage and strange sounds echoed the eeriness and curiosity of her character perfectly.
One cannot write a review of this show without congratulating the technical work and leadership of the production. The simple yet powerful set design of rope and chain worked hand in hand with the mostly plain lighting throughout the whole show. This allowed the color and starkness of the period-accurate costumes to be as powerful as possible. The designers of this show, William Bryant, Lindsay Stevens and Bethany Miller, along with their crews should be very proud of themselves. Everyone who had a hand in this show should be very proud, they all deserve a place in this review.
Finally, Dr. Flower and Anna Davis: take a bow. The cohesiveness and quality of this production only goes to display the leadership behind it. “The Illusion” was a high quality, entertaining show that should give Eastern University hope for the future of its theater program.