The Illusion, Piven Theatre Workshop, Noyes Cultural Arts Center. Nearly four centuries after its premiere, Pierre Corneille’s L’illusion comique continues to beguile viewers with its enigmatic reflections on the nature of love–filial, romantic, and mercantile. Tony Kushner’s adaptation likewise emphasizes the contemplative side of the tale, about a father who seeks news of his estranged son through a psychic.

Director Robin Chaplik perceives no irony in the play’s original title, opting to highlight the work’s comedy. This approach helps mitigate the artificiality of two elements that often cripple modern productions–the intentionally affected acting required to set up the surprise ending and a sort of Miles Gloriosis clown whose droll eccentricity is easily lost on contemporary audiences. Since the timing and declamation necessary to comedy are inherently artificial, the production as a whole has a more consistent tone, and the buffoonery is better integrated with the more serious action.

The brisk pace and robust characterizations of this production render it one of the most coherent and entertaining versions of the play in recent memory. David Parkes plays the roguish son with the lazy grace of a big cat; Bernard Beck lends depth to the role of the blustering father, who emerges no wiser for his enlightenment; and Chris Farrell sparkles as the mischievous seer. Add a vigorous supporting ensemble, and this Illusion emerges as a thoughtful but never lugubrious multifaceted parable

. –Mary Shen Barnidge