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FCC production evokes audience emotion

The Illusion, written by Pierre Corneille and adapted by Tony Kushner, explores the mystical and elusive world of memories transfered to the theatre. The illusion of love and the profound power it has over those in its grasp is explored and exemplified through each of the play’s characters.

Directed by Janine Christl and performed by the Fresno City College (FCC) Theatre Department, The Illusion opened, Oct. 7.

The story takes place in southern France in the 17th century, in the cave of an eccentric magician named Alcandre (Keshawn Keene), who is sought by Pridamant of Avignon (Luis Ramentes). Fifteen years prior, Pridamant banished his son from his home and now, riddled with remorse, he wishes to discover what has become of his offspring.

Alcandre warns Pridamant of the dangers of looking into the past, saying that he cannot alter anything that occurred and great pain and difficulty will be experienced if he tries to cross over into the world they are observing. These warnings are shrugged off rather flippantly due to Pridamant’s desire to see his son, so the clock is reversed by fifteen years and the past is replayed.

The first scene of his son’s past takes place in the garden of a wealthy nobleman. Pridamant’s son, Calisto (Jono Cota), has fallen madly in love with the nobleman’s daughter, Melibea (Bridget Manders). To the young couple’s misfortune, Calisto is a peasant, and therefore not permitted to marry Melibea, so their love is kept a secret. Only Melibea’s maid, Elicia (Lena Auglian), who is also in love with Calisto, knows of their affair.

Meanwhile, Melibea is pursued by two other ardent suitors, Pleribo (Josh Hansen) and Matamore (David Manning), both of whom are wealthy and respected, making either of them a desirable match for a nobleman’s daughter.

Despite her father’s protests, Melibea is determined to be with Calisto. However, unexpected interferences from the jealous and scorned Elicia, Pleribo and Matamore are about to ruin her plans.

Though the tone of the play is generally dark, there are a few unexpected twists at the end that simultaneously tie up the loose ends of the storyline and leave the viewer in a more hopeful mood.

The cast, consisting of only nine people, was fabulous despite its small size. Each actor created an equally-convincing character and managed to connect with the audience emotionally. Although the characters possessed very different motivations and personalities, I genuinely enjoyed everyone?s performance.

That said, three of the actors especially stood out to me. Manning delivered a hilarious and memorable portrayal of a pompous ladies’ man with a feminine air. This was a very interesting combination of characteristics and his use of physical comedy increased the audience?s amusement. Despite the diversion Matamore?s character provided, he was also able to show an emotional, poignant side when the story called for such a display.

Cota played his character with a smoldering intensity that captivated the viewers? attention. I was intrigued by the various aspects of his personality. He incorporated a great deal of passion, arrogance, foolishness and impulsiveness into his character, yet he managed to avoid becoming dislikable by delicately balancing his flaws with his more endearing qualities.

Lena Auglian (Elicia) memorized extensive monologues, which she recited impressively with believability and emotion. While Auglian?s character required a more serious nature, her ability to realistically present a heartbroken, love-struck young girl torn between her desire to seek revenge and her desire to forgive the man she loves resonated with members of the audience.

Although the set did not really alter during the play, it was intricately-designed and therefore visually-appealing. Sound effects and multicolored strobe lights were utilized throughout the production to create the eerie atmosphere of Alcandre?s cave as well as to indicate the passing of time.

According to the Fresno Bee’s interview with Christl, the cave is made from screen (the same material that is used to make screen doors), so it reflects the colorful lights in an intriguing way.

The costumes were quite elaborately-made and well-suited to the time period. Both female characters underwent five costume changes throughout the performance. Melibea’s dresses were beautiful and eye-catching, giving her an air of sophistication.

The notion of what constitutes love is thrown about multiple times by various characters, for each individual possesses a different idea of what it means. For Calisto, love is the pursuit of what he cannot easily attain; for the jealous Elicia, love is the carrying out of justice. The theory that we inappropriately consider almost any emotion to be love is also mentioned, which left me questioning and analyzing my own beliefs about this subject. The cast’s ability to evoke such emotions from the audience is a testament to their talent and the overall effectiveness and truth of The Illusion.

I had never seen what FCC’s drama department was capable of, and I must say I was thoroughly impressed and will most likely return to future productions from this talented group.

The show runs for approximately two hours, and has a ten-minute intermission between acts. Future performances will be held on Oct. 12, 13, 14, and 15 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 15 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $14 for general admission and $12 for students and seniors. Tickets may be purchased online at FCC’s website. For further information, contact the FCC Theatre box office at 559.442.8221.

Fresno City College?s next production, The Drunken City, by Adam Bock, opens Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m.

For more drama reviews, read the Sept. 25 article, ‘Rancho Tesoro’ produces quality story-line, attention to detail.

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