LET’S REVIEW: ‘The Illusion’ is fantastic fun at North Coast Rep Theatre

Imagine you are aging, have lost contact with your only son, and yearn to see him once more. That’s where we find Pridamant (John Herzog), who, desperate to locate his long-lost Clindor (Michael Polak), visits a sorceress (Kandis Chappell) hoping she’ll use her magic to find him in “The Illusion,” which runs through March 19 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre.

Pridamant shows up at what looks like a mountain cave (great stage set by Marty Burnett) and is greeted by The Amanuensis (John Greenleaf), the sorceress’ servant. She enters with a huge walking stick, her long, shear scarves blowing in the air. She walks to a portal and conjures a scene with Clindor and a few ladies.

Scenes come and go with different characters involved. Clindor is sure he is in love with the beautiful Melibea (Sharon Rietkerk) and pursues her. But there are others who want to claim her love, like the funny and always fashionable Matamore (Andrew Ableson). However, the maid (Christina L. Flynn) seems to want Clindor for herself and carries out a little of her own trickery.

Almost every scene brings laughs (and sometimes confusion) with all the shenanigans that go on, and the characters sometimes change names. Much of this seems to confuse Pridamant, but he always steps up when his son is in peril, pressing the sorceress to change what he sees.

Each cast member pulls off their role(s) superbly. Herzog is stern and demanding as Pridamant. Chappell excels at her lengthy dialogue and magic scenes. Rietkerk and Flynn are cute, flirty and mischievous. Ableson and Polak demonstrate their manhood and determination to out-do each other. Greenleaf brings more laughs with his actions than words.

The setting, in 17th century France, allows for exceptional scenes, such as fencing, which brings even more laughs and mystery to the plot. North Coast Rep Artistic Director David Ellenstein, who once had a role in the production in Arizona, does a great job directing. The costumes by Elisa Benzoni are eye-popping.

<square_bullet> IF YOU GO: “The Illusion” runs through March 19 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach. Tickets from $39. (858) 481-1055. northcoastrep.org

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