Villanova Theatre produces ‘Illusion’

Emily Triebwasser

The line between truth and fantasy has been hazy since the birth of time.

Whether an individual is blissfully ignorant, exceedingly delusional or unwilling to accept reality, the truth is often harder to accept than previously believed.

Villanova Theatre’s production of “The Illusion” deals with such skepticism that makes time, place and nomenclature seem irrelevant.

“The Illusion” centers on an aging man, Pridamant, who enters a cave desperately seeking aid from a world-renowned magician, Alcandre.

He is tormented with guilt over banishing his son from his home several years back and feels the need to know the condition and whereabouts of his estranged son.

Alcandre agrees to show Pridamant three illusions of his son’s life since his banishment from home but warns him that these illusions may be upsetting and that, as much as he desires to do so, he may not enter them.

Within these apparitions, Pridamant’s son and his peers change their names, appearances and social statuses, which confuses both the audience and the boy’s father.

One is left pondering the need for plot fluidity and the existence of inalienable truths. Does a name matter? Is time relevant?

As confusing as the plot may be, “The Illusion” maintains a credible storyline full of love, adversity and jealousy until the somewhat-satisfying surprise ending.

Immediately when a viewer walks into the Villanova Theatre, he or she can see the amazing set.

Scenic designer Frank McCullough seamlessly creates the look and feel of a 17th-century magician’s cave, complete with candlelight and eerily realistic stone walls.

Likewise, sound designer Jorge Cousineau adds sound effects and a score that cause members of the audience to shiver as if actually underground.

The smaller, more intimate size of the venue adds to this effect, as the audience feels like it is in the cave watching Alcandre’s elusive images. I’ve attended quite a few productions in Vasey Hall, and this set was by far the most impressive.

The acting is spectacular. Comedic timing is on target at all times, especially within the second illusion with Matamore, a lunatic on a power trip. His comic relief is necessary after a rather slow beginning, and it is clear that the other actors feed off of his enthusiasm.

The entire ensemble works wonders with a long script that includes convoluted, outdated and unfamiliar language, which makes the production all the more impressive.

My biggest objection is the length of the show. It stretches for two hours and could easily be shortened. I found myself restless during certain scenes, including the finale.

With a strong storyline and an impressive cast, less is more in terms of script length.

I left the theatre with the play’s themes ringing in my head. Do we cling to fantasy instead of accepting the reality that life offers? Is love a true concept or a mere work of fiction? Although this production is an entertaining comedy, it begs the viewer to contemplate deep notions. “The Illusion” is running at Villanova Theatre in Vasey Hall until Sunday.