“The Illusion,” presented by the Communication and Theatre department, will premiere on Potter Hall’s main stage on Wednesday April 7 at 8 p.m. and will run until April 11. The play will be directed by theatre and cinema assistant professor Kevin Brown.
The play revolves around a father visiting a magician in hopes to find and reconcile with his lost son. The magician shows the father three illusions, or glimpses, into his son’s life and watches the development of a romance his son is involved in.
“It is a story about love for family and romantic love. I think most people can relate to that,” Brown said.
For this production, Brown is using Angels in America writer Tony Kushner’s adaptation of the play, L’Illusion Comique by Pierre Corneille from 1636. Brown says that even though it is Kushner, there is no political commentary and it is family friendly.
“It is not Angels in America. It’s not a typical Kushner. It is very toned down,” Brown said.
Brown has thrown in his own twist to Kushner’s adaptation as well. In each illusion, the time period in which each are set will be different. The first illusion occurs in the early 1600s, the second in the 1800s and the last one is set in modern times.
For the actors, the play presents several unique challenges. One is the time shift and the other is that in each illusion, they play a different version of their character with their own name and acting style.
Student Matt Wright, who plays Calisto, Clindor, and Theogenes thought he was auditioning for multiple characters but soon realized it was the same person.
“At first I thought I was reading for three characters throughout the script,” Wright said. “I was like there is a lot of characters in this play…it then hit me when somebody asked how many characters there are and Brown said there were eight.”
Student Jennifer Douglas, who plays Melibea, Isabelle and Hippolyta, says the play is an interesting challenge because of playing three different characters.
“It’s like every scene is a new play. We had to change our mannerisms, like they way we talk, and try to make it separate but it’s hard not to let it bleed into the next character,” Douglas said.
The play will continue the use of video production in live theatre at Western as well.
“We have video throughout the play,” Brown said. “Each illusion begins with a video and the way we justify that is that the magician and the old man [father] is looking into the crystal ball and what they see in the crystal ball becomes illuminated on the screen.”
That screen is called a scrim. When light hits it from the front, the scrim will appear solid, allowing for the video to be projected on it. When it is time to reveal the scene and the actors behind the scrim, the lights in front the scrim will dim, and the lights behind are brightened allowing the audience to see through the scrim.
“The Illusion” is Brown’s first production at Missouri Western. He has produced other theatre productions before coming to Western last fall.