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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 24 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 34
A magical Illusion - Sound Theatre scores with one of Tony Kushner's lesser-known works
Arts & Entertainment
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A magical Illusion - Sound Theatre scores with one of Tony Kushner's lesser-known works

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

THE ILLUSION
SOUND THEATRE COMPANY
Through August 26


You can probably assume that if someone knows playwright Tony Kushner, they know him as the writer of the six-hour-long Angels in America, which many believe is the greatest play of the 20th century. However, Kushner is still quite young - in his mid-50s - and he has written many other plays over the past three decades.

In 1988, a few years before Angels, Kushner's play The Illusion was first produced. Sound Theatre Company has chosen to bring it to Seattle for what may even be its Seattle premiere. Since Kushner 'freely adapted' it from a 17th-century play by Pierre Corneille (L'Illusion Comique), it might not be considered entirely his own. But his choice reflects his love of language and his penchant for blending fantasy with reality.

The play, set in 17th-century France, revolves around Pridamant (Gianni Truzzi), who has recently had a health scare. After years of estrangement from his only son (Matt Fulbright), he seeks out a sorceress and her speechless servant (Eva M. Abram and William Li) for information about how his son has fared since being disinherited.

Pridamant is shown a series of disconnected yet strangely interconnected moments, where his son appears but is known by different names. The son appears to be in love with a woman (Elinor Gunn), yet he is also involved with a servant (Hannah Mootz) and is confronted with rivals - one a nobleman (Alex Garnett), the other a 'lunatic,' as Matamore (Frank Lawler) is labeled in the program. All except Matamore also change their names and circumstances, though their relationships stay similar.

The secret of Pridamant's son's life is revealed at the end, cementing fantasy together with fantasy, though Pridamant can finally rest easier knowing what his son's life has been like. And although Matamore never gets to win the woman, he - and the rest of the audience - get to travel to the moon. It's the ultimate fantastical ending.

The ensemble chosen by Teresa Thuman, artistic director of Sound Theatre Company, is a solid bunch, able to create a lovely atmosphere of magic and wonder. Truzzi is appropriately agonized yet defiant, Abram and Li are mysterious, Fulbright is leading-man-like, Gunn is leading-lady-like, Garnett is appropriately despicable-rival-like, and Lawler relishes his character's multiple levels of crazy.

Mootz gets the best character, since the maid, even while being cheated on, has to help save the day over and over. Her flexible expressions and ability to be both funny and swift-thinking help her steal several scenes. Li also shows admirable flexibility as he changes from young servant to angry, implacable father.

But the most inspiring aspects to this low-budget production lie in the wonderful technical achievements that Bryan Boyd and Suzi Tucker manage in their set design, a magical forest background with exactly appropriate mesh 'windows' to allow for Tucker's beautifully rendered projections. Scene changes often take irritatingly long, with sometimes jarring effect, but the projections created the ability to shift seamlessly, allowing us to be transported to different settings instantly and with no fanfare.

Boyd and Tucker's subtle support is augmented with adept lighting by Richard Schaefer, eerie sound design by Lindsey Morck, and lovely costumes by Deborah Sorensen. Jami Sieber composed original music.

This production ends soon (Sound Theatre Company could only manage three weekends of space rental), so try to catch it while you still can. For more information, go to www.soundtheatrecompany.org or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/257760, or call 1-800-838-3006.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com, or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters.

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