Court Theatre presents
At 5535 S. Ellis Avenue
Written by Tony Kushner
Adapted from Pierre Corneille’s L’Illusion comique
Directed by Charles Newell
Thru April 11th
Running Time: Two and a half hours includes a fifteen minute intermission
‘Love is an illusion.’ ‘Love makes the world an illusion.’ From the dark echoing depths of a magician’s cave to the moon, The Illusion is the real thing: the hysterical quest to find love. Court Theatre presents The Illusion. Based in the French Baroque period, Playwright Tony Kushner has written a curious, odd and strange 17th century tale adapted from Pierre Corneille’s L’Illusion comique. An estranged nobleman seeks counsel from a magician to determine the fate of his son. The magician conjures up a variety of scenarios of the son’s struggle with poverty, no nobility, love, lust, and revenge. The Illusion is a mind-slide of what’s reality in love between a man and his son, a man and his women, a man and his ego.
Not relying on smoke and mirrors of distraction, The Illusion is solid with a strong script by Kushner and memorable lines of hilarity. An actor playing a secondary character, Timothy Edward Kane (Matamore), takes the lead delivering his arrogant words of ignorance with flawless comedic timing. Every moment Kane is on stage is amusing but the standouts are when he addresses the servant girl as ‘Medusa of the linen closet’ and ‘mop and bucket.’ (I’m still laughing!) The servant, Elizabeth Ledo, is convincing as the mistress of misapprehension in her quest for love, revenge and wealth. The son, Michael Mahler, exhibits range going from school boy crush to Casanova. Under the masterful direction of Charles Newell with Kushner’s dialogue, each member of the brilliant cast has showcase moments. The magicia
From the dramatic start, lights (Josh Culbert) and sounds (Josh Horvath and Nick Keenan) perpetuate the fantasy world. Shadows and echoes are effectively used to establish a mysterious dimension. Scenic designer, Collette Pollard has made the stage within the stage a slab of rock lying on a bed of industrial cogs with ropes as pulleys. This mechanism adds to the illusion of time travel with a mystical component. Although Jacqueline Firkins has created delightful costumes going from whimsical simplistic to ornamental nobility, I was concerned for Ledo’s potential Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction during the first act.
With this script, cast, and direction, all the ingredients simmer for a basic love potion. Since love is an illusion, Court Theatre adds visual and audio elements to boil this production into a wondrous spellbound version of enchantment.
The Illusion is an exhilarating roller coaster ride with twists and turns in the darkness that between giggles I’m certain I missed some of the scenery. I loved the trip so much that I would travel back to Hyde Park for another ride. Any takers?
Back home in Chicago’s reality from the delusional state of California, Cridlin describes the show as “funny, visually-intriguing, stimulating.”
Court Theatre photographs courtesy of Michael Brosilow.
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
Traveling down scenic Lake Shore Drive to a far away land, we make it from Lakeview to Hyde Park in a respectful thirty minutes. We dine at Medici’s on 57th Street, 1327 E. 57th Street. On the border of the University of Chicago campus, the restaurant’s menu and graffiti-covered booths are geared toward the student body. The theme for the dining experience is “hot.” Not in a ‘take off your shirt hot guy’ way, it’s the temperature. We start with chips and guacamole. The chips are hot (and greasy)! The basket is disproportionate to the dab of tasty guac. Going the Mexican route, I order the quesadilla with roasted vegetables. It’s hot! The tortilla is of an organic, stone ground flour nature. I eat less than a quarter of it and decline taking it home to throw away. My decaf café au lait is hot! Cridin orders chicken and vegetable skewers on rice. After picking around it, he eventually also discards the remainder of the meal. With meal regret, we wander next door to Medici’s bakery. Opening the door, the wafts of freshly baked bread transport us to an enchanted place. A trio of almond crescents work their magic and dinner becomes a hazy memory.
Post show, we arrive back in Lakeview to meet friends at Wang’s, 3317 N. Broadway. Giving the illusion of something between a red ornate Asian brothel and opium den, Wang’s is packed full of good looking men. The fantasy is my dream come true. The reality is its boys town newest hip spot. Oh well, the drinks are cheap and as Ledo uttered earlier in the evening, “a surrogate love affair is better than none at all.”