The Illusion, Wing & Groove Theatre. What makes Pierre Corneille's meditation on the nature of love--filial, romantic, and mercenary--beguiling to audiences nearly four centuries after its premiere is Tony Kushner's adaptation, which weaves in sly observations on modern society. What makes it irresistible to actors is the challenge of projecting a natural appearance during scenes that the play's story dictates must be--well, slightly theatrical. Director Bryan White helps the artifice along by giving his actors commedia-style masks, designed by Santosha Chantal. This allows them to play pathos and passion unencumbered by stylistic concerns--and pathos is abundant in this tale of estranged fathers and sons, lovers rent asunder by base materialism, and honor defended only through violence.
The mostly young players keep a firm grip on their characters, never allowing their declamatory texts to lure them into excess--a good thing since a little overplaying goes a long way in Wing & Groove's intimate loft space, transformed by Geoffrey Wood's set design into a cobwebby cavern. And in his capacity as an actor, playing the Lunatic, Wood walks away with the show: his comedic portrayal of a fraudulent hero charms us as thoroughly as does his ingenious peekaboo mask, fierce on the outside, sweet on the inside.