Prepare for magic, mystery, romance, comedy, action, and an unexpected twist this weekend as the JSU Drama department presents The Illusion.
The Illusion is an adaption by Tony Kushner of a 17th-century French play by Pierre Corneille titled L’Illusion Comique. It tells the story of a father who visits a sorcerer in order to find information about his estranged son. The magician conjures up three illusions about the son’s life, and in each illusion he bears a different name.
Maurice Winsell portrays the son, Calisto/Clindor/Theogenes. “There’s a twist at the end, because the difference in my names has a meaning,” Winsell explains. “You find out at the end why my name is different three different times.”
Winsell says that being part of a classical play is what drew him to work on this production. “Even though Tony Kushner got to adapt it and it’s more modern, it’s still a classic play. You can tell that the writing and the sentiment is still there through Kushner’s language. It still shows. It’s still prevalent.”
Part of performing a classic play is dressing in classic style. “It is difficult acting in a corset, as well as breathing,” laughs Sadie Bell Freeman. She plays the love interest of the missing son, and she has three names as well: Melibea, Isabelle, and Hippolyta. “It’s definitely a challenge, but once I got used to it, it was like nothing.”
Freeman is a freshman Drama major, and this is her first production at JSU. “It’s been an interesting ride so far, and I’m really glad that I got to do it,” she says.
This is also a first JSU production for Dillion Everett, who plays the character of Matamore. “Matamore is Clindor’s master,” Everett explains. “Tony Kushner flat-out tells us that he is a lunatic. I’m the crazy guy in the show who thinks I’m an amazing warrior/lover.”
Everett says that the most difficult part of his role is “really centering in on my inner lunatic, and trying to be as eccentric and as crazy as I can be. It’s easy to kind of get out there and be serious; it’s a little bit harder to go out there and be comedic, but then it’s even harder to be crazy and a lunatic.”
For Tanner Cain, who plays Amanuensis, the best part of The Illusion is the aspect of magic and mystery surrounding it. He describes his character as the servant of Alcandre, the magician. “He’s basically the servant, the slave, and does whatever he’s told to do, whether he wants to or not. He is both deaf and dumb, because his tongue was cut out and his eardrums were pierced by his master. This character is really more mysterious than most, because you don’t really know the backstory. You don’t know why his tongue was cut out. So I’m trying to portray, ‘What is his relationship with Alcandre? Is it all that it appears to be?’”
The show’s director, Dr. Ellen Peck, gives her opinion on why people should want to see the show this weekend. “It is magical. It’s a universal story about love and redemption. It has romance, sword fights, humor…it’s a very funny play. It is touching and warm, and it’s everything that I look for in a play. I think that everyone will leave the theater feeling moved.”
“For an hour and a half, you’re going to be entertained,” Winsell says. “You’re going to be captured in this whimsical world, and you’re just going to enjoy this story, and then at the end you’re going to have that sudden epiphany like, ‘Ah! I should have seen it coming!’”
Freeman is fairly certain that audience members won’t be able to figure out the twist at the end of the show. “If you catch on to the illusion, props to you, because there’s no way anybody’s going to get it,” she says. “What makes it interesting is at the very end. People’s jaws are going to drop, and they’re going to say, ‘Ooohhh! That’s what’s going on!”
The Illusion runs this weekend, Nov. 15-18 on the R. Carlton Ward Stage at the Ernest Stone Performing Arts Center. Show times are 7:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens and JSU personnel, and $5 for students, military, and children. They may be purchased at the door, or in advance by calling the JSU box office at 256-782-5648.