It was way back last September when I looked over the collection of productions planned for the acclaimed repertory company A Noise Within’s first season in its brand new Pasadena home. Of those plays set to be staged, the previously unheard of “The Illusion” — a comedy written way back in the 17th century by Pierre Corneille and adapted by Tony Kushner — interested me the most, especially when I read it was about an estranged father going on a mystical journey to reunite with the son he’d long abandoned. Not to get all TMI or psychoanalytical but the reason it struck a chord is that I’m a son of an abandoning father whom I’ve never met and thus with that kind of baggage I quickly ordered up tickets to see what Corneille and Kushner might have to say on the subject. Then I waited. Six months. Until last night.
Going in, I had no expectations about the play but with many past experiences sitting before A Noise Within’s stage, I had every expectation the company would do an incredible job, and it most certainly did.
“The Illusion” opens with the father, Pridamant (Nick Ullett), venturing into a cave in search of the sorcerer Alcandre (Deborah Strang) to help reconnect him to the son (Graham Hamilton) he selfishly disavowed 15 years earlier. With the help of her servant Amanuensis (Jeff Doba) Alcandre conjures three episodes from the young man’s life. Pridamant watches with each scene finding the boy in a slightly different world where names change and allegiances shift, but only as the strange tale reaches its conclusion does he learn the ultimate truth.
Comedy ain’t easy, but with Director Casey Stangl’s confident handling of Kushner’s exquisite language we’re ushered into a laugh-out-loud contemporary look at several visions of love that doesn’t forsake the play’s classical foundation — and all of it brought gloriously to life amidst the incredible set design of Keith Mitchell by an incomparable group of talented players that include Devon Sorvari, Abby Craden, Freddy Douglas and Alan Blumenfeld.
WHAT: “The Illusion”
WHERE: A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, 91107
WHEN: Through May 19