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Department of Theatre and Dance presents work from award-winning American playwright Tony Kushner
Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Department of Theatre and Dance presents work from award-winning American playwright Tony Kushner

The magician Alcandre (Christine Boehm), top, keeps a watchful eye on Elicia (Stevie Jackson), left, and Melibea (Melita Kingston) in a scene from the Department of Theatre and Dance production of “The Illusion.”

The beauty of language, the art of humor and a touch of mystery come together for the next offering in the Walter Gloor Mainstage Series.

The Fredonia Department of Theatre and Dance presents six performances of “The Illusion” by Tony Kushner from Feb. 24 to March 4 in Bartlett Theatre at Rockefeller Arts Center. Faculty member Jessica Hillman is the director.

In “The Illusion,” a father seeking news on the whereabouts of his prodigal son makes a visit to a sorceress. The sorceress conjures a variety of visions regarding the son, leaving the father – and the audience – to piece together the mystery.

Hillman noted that Kushner’s works are known for the beauty of their language and “The Illusion” is no exception.

“It’s a real treat – the language is gorgeous,” Hillman said. “People who have appreciated his other works should really see this.”

Kushner’s best-known work is the 1993 play “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.” The play is written in two parts: “Millennium Approaches” – for which Kushner earned the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award – and “Perestroika,” which earned a Tony Award and a Drama Desk Award. “Angels in America” centers on the AIDS epidemic in Reagan-era New York City. It was later adapted into an HBO miniseries.

Hillman said humor is also a key element of “The Illusion.”

“Kushner is wonderful at mixing humor and emotional power,” Hillman said. “The play is moving and yet funny at the same time.”

There is also an element of mystery in “The Illusion.”

“Elements keep shifting – it becomes a mystery of sorts,” Hillman said. “You have to track the clues and try to unravel what the connections are.”

“The Illusion” is adapted from the 17th century play “L’Illusion Comique” by Pierre Corneille.

“This is not a traditional period piece. It employs a variety of theatrical styles,” Hillman said. “While it keeps the spirit of the original work, it’s completely accessible to a modern audience.”

Hillman called Kushner, who was born in New York City in 1956, America’s greatest living playwright.

As a screenwriter, Kushner co-authored the screenplay for the 2005 film “Munich” with Eric Roth and wrote the screenplay for the 2012 film “Lincoln.” He earned an Academy Award nomination for both. In 2013, Kushner received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama.

The Department of Theatre and Dance production of “The Illusion” features a cast of eight, along with a large design team and a technical crew made up of faculty and students.

“We have an excellent group of actors and the set is very unique,” Hillman said. “We’re using new methods to create the organic feel of the sorceress’ cave. It’s an immersive and environmental kind of staging which will be exciting and fun for the audience.”

Dates and performance times are Friday, Feb. 24 and Saturday, Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Feb. 26 at 2 p.m., and Thursday, March 2 through Saturday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are available through the Fredonia Ticket Office in the Williams Center; phone 673-3501 or go online.

“The Illusion” is a Walter Gloor Mainstage Series event sponsored by the SUNY Fredonia Federal Credit Union as part of the Lake Shore Savings Season.

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