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The Illusion
Mother Road Theater Company


Nicholas Ballas, Peter Kierst and Ray Orley
Photo by John Maio
When I go to see theatre, I go because I want to be carried away. I go because there exists in me a desire to see magic: to see something like a dream, the hidden and subconscious hopes, fears, joys and pains of my life. Theater is like a dream—we enter into a false world that is in many ways just as real, if not more so than, our own. This ephemeral world is an image of ourselves and the world we live in. It is the goal of the cast and production team to make that transition (from our conscious reality into their subconscious "illusory" reality) a seamless one.

This is exactly what we get with Tony Kushner's adaptation of Pierre Corneille's L'Illusion Comique simply called The Illusion put on by Albuquerque's Mother Road Theater Company. The story follows an elderly lawyer who seeks news of his estranged son before he kicks the bucket. The lawyer employs the help of a man named Alcandre who has the ability to "bring to bear on any situation certain skills and lost arts of a pre-Christian era." Pridamant of Avignon, the lawyer, had driven his son away 15 years before and is now contrite. He seeks the help of this magician and of his servant The Amanuensis to find out what has become of his son. As Alcandre conjures up visions of the son, we find out that each scene puts him in a different world, with different names, relationships, situations, and only towards the end of each conjuring do we see a little bit clearer the son's fate.

This play is delightful. It's a fantastic blend of playful comedy, theatricality, drama, intrigue, mystery, romance and suspense. At it's base level I think it is Kushner's ode to love both familial and romantic and the consequences of its absence. It's a beautiful tale of disillusionment, redemption and discovery.

The cast is exceptional. Led off by Peter Shea Kierst as Pridamant, and each entrance thereafter, I was continually impressed and overjoyed by the performance of each actor and actress. They all held their own as completely competent, talented and professional presences on stage. I could not and will not praise one performance over another because each is equally as gifted and engaging as the others. Ray Orley (Amanuensis), Nicholas Ballas (Alcandre), Matthew Van Wettering (the Lawyer's Son), Jessica Quindlen (the son's love interest), Pip Lustgarten (her Maidservant and friend), Justino Brokaw (her suitor and the son's rival) and Tom Schuch (Matamore) are all perfect in their roles, and I mean it. They are a force to behold in this production and I would go so far to throw out that I have seen better acting from them than in my experiences with professional theater in Chicago and New York. I am immensely proud of the cast for their fearlessness in this production, for acting takes immense courage. There is a sense that the performers trust each other and are allowed to completely devote themselves to their scenes.

Not only does the strength of this production lie in the actors' performances but in the whole of the production design. The set is expertly constructed by Vic Browder and TJ Bowlin. The costumes are beautiful and interesting thanks to Carolyn Hoffman-Schneider. The lighting is truly an artistic achievement accomplished by Tom Studer. And the props are flawless due to Christopher Atwood Hall's work. These elements flow together and what is created is beautiful artistic cohesion.

Julia Thudium, the director, could not have chosen better collaborators for her project. The whole of the play flows without barely a hiccup, which is quite an accomplishment in theater. A huge congratulations to her and to her Stage Management.

After the past couple of months seeing shows that just didn't "do" it for me, all I could say after leaving the MTS Black Box Theater was "Finally!" I was elated having after so long seen something that truly was magical—that really provided for me an experience that "transmogrifying." The Illusion is a huge success and one of the best shows I've seen in a long time. If you miss this run, you will be sorry.

The Illusion runs through September 29th. Thursday and Friday performances at 8 p.m. Saturdays at 6 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. General Admission is $24 (totally worth it), $18 for Students and Seniors, and Thursday tickets being just $15. It is being shown at the MTS Black Box Theater found at 6320 Domingo Rd. NE, Ste. B, Albuquerque NM 87108. Production information and tickets can be found at the Mother Road website: www.motherroad.org.

--Caleb Scales



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