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November 7, 2017 > Ohlone CollegeÕs ÒThe IllusionÓ is spellbinding

Ohlone CollegeÕs ÒThe IllusionÓ is spellbinding

By Janet Grant

The Ohlone College Theatre & Dance DepartmentÕs production of Tony KushnerÕs ÒThe Illusion,Ó is a visual and auditory feast for the senses. Director Michael Navarra artfully weaves his own magic over a play where the audience is constantly left wondering what is real and what is, well, illusion.

At first, the play is deceptively simple Ð a repentant fatherÕs search for the wayward son he cruelly sent away many years ago. But from there, the audience must peel away layers of illusion to get to the truth of what really happened to the boy. And along the way, we meet up with a strange but intriguing cast of cowards, buffoons, bullies, besotted lovers, and kind of a crazy sorcerer.

Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, best known for his ÒAngels in America,Ó loosely adapted ÒThe IllusionÓ from Pierre CornielleÕs ÒLÕIllusion Comique.Ó Bringing the 17th century play to modern audiences, Kushner delivers a timeless tale full of magic and wonder. In the hands of Navarra and his exceptionally strong cast and crew, Ohlone College Theatre & Dance manages to transport us seamlessly between an energetic, colorful Baroque France and a dark, dank cave full of sound and fury.

Pridamant, a rich lawyer comes to the dark, and mysterious cave of Alcandre the sorcerer, to learn the fate of his estranged son. With the help of The Amanuensis, his long-suffering and physically abused assistant, the sorcerer conjures up visions of the boyÕs life as a succession of scenes in which the father cannot intervene.

Mike Aldrete plays Pridamant with deep emotion, heart, and a bit of surprising humor. He is quite believable as the remorseful father wracked with guilt in casting away his son. We find it easy to bond with him emotionally as we ride out the waves of uncertainty, confusion, and anguish caused by the fitful visions.

Idrees Najibi is magnificent in his depiction of the rather madcap magician Alcandre. His devilish flair and impresario-like presence borders on insanity. Shrouding himself in mystery and illusion, his sometimes over-the-top antics keeps us guessing Ð who is he really and what is at the heart of his visions?

Lauren Bernal JacksonÕs enigmatic portrayal of The Amanuensis, is heartfelt, painful and mysterious. You can viscerally feel her personal agony and outward hatred of Alcandre. But too, you couldnÕt help but wonder as to her story. Who is she really and what is her true role?

Robert Paine is quite wonderful as the fatuous, pompous, self-deluding fool, Matamore. HeÕs flamboyantly funny and gets some of the best laughs of the evening. But you canÕt help but feel sorry for him, especially when he acts tough, but faints at anything that causes him discomfort. His character shows us uncomfortably what makes us create illusions about ourselves for ourselves.

Roman Gonzalez is both charming and glib in his rendering of the successive visions of PridamentÕs son, Calisto, Clindor, and Theogenes. As the poor but handsome womanizer, Mr. Gonzalez portrays the ultimate survivor and self-seeker. Indeed, wily in the ways of love, Òhe can talk like the Devil, beautiful words, and he scatters them freely, in every direction,Ó says one of his conquests.

Marissa Madan portrays the high-born maiden Isabelle, with a strong and independent spirit. We like her, we are invested in her, we hope that for her, loves finds a way. But we are secretly thinkingÉshe could do better.

Opposite Isabelle, Kayla Martinez plays the vengeful and crafty servant Lyse, with a quick and lively wit.

The young man is seen in love and trouble surrounded by a gallery of other lovers and rival suitors in Melibea, a wealthy maiden (Sarah Rendon), her pert and scheming maid Elicia, (Kim Dutrow), a long-suffering wife Hyppolyta (Stacey Lynn Bell), dedicated and loyal servant Clarina (Athena Benavides), one foppish and cowardly suitor, Pleribo (Matthew Locke), one more arrogant and far more menacing, Adraste (Nick J. Saud) and one most powerful and vengeful, Prince Florilame (Christopher Pynchon).

Rounding out the cast are the masked and mysterious Ensemble: Danielle Burri, Bodhi Kim-Foulk and Nicole Lopez.

Special kudos also goes to Scenic Designer, George F. Ledo, Costume Designer, Tamara Cooper, Lighting Designer, Matthew OÕDonnell, and Sound Designer, Fred Alim. These designers and their crew were amazing in bringing to the audience colorful costumes, a delightful Baroque stage, and an otherworldly cave.

The Ohlone College Theatre & Dance DepartmentÕs ÒThe Illusion,Ó is a wonderful production not to be missed. This adaptation of a 300-year old minor classic is as relevant today as it was then. And KushnerÕs love affair with the English language casts a spell of fantasy, wonder, and humor over all. And not to be overlooked, this play approaches the eternal questions of life versus art and illusion versus reality with fierce and uncompromising entertainment.

The Illusion
Friday, Nov 3 Ð Saturday, Nov 18
(ASL interpreted Nov 11)
8 p.m.
Smith Center at Ohlone College
43600 Mission Blvd, Fremont
(510) 659-6031
Tickets: $15 general admission, $10 student admission
Parking: $4

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