By Kiley Krzyzek
It was all an illusion, thanks to last week’s theater performances at the black-box theater in Maloney Hall.
The Illusion, by playwright Tony Kushner, tells the story of a father, Pridamant, who learns what became of his estranged son through glimpses revealed by a magician, only to realize that these were memories from theatrical performances.
“A man who is close to death comes to a magician’s cave to seek out the truth of what happened to his son, who ran away as a young boy. The magician proceeds to show him three episodes from his son’s life as he gets older. You find out at the end all the scenes have been plucked from theatrical performances. It’s really a testament to how theater evokes emotions that surprise people and [how] it’s really irrevocably changed them.” explained Ashley Malloy in detail, who played the role of Alcandre, the magician.
The story was told eloquently by Central Connecticut State University students of the Theater department.
While the changing of names and scenes became slightly confusing during the show, the dynamic performances, intricate wardrobes and stage visuals held the audience’s attention.
The play also took hold of the actors’ attention when they first encountered the script.
“I read it about a year ago when I first found out we were going to do it and it felt like a movie. A lot of the times you read a script for the first time and you’re kind of getting a feel for how the story is going to come together. So, the whole time I’m trying to piece together this story as it’s happening, and they’re all changing names in every scene… is it supposed to be one actor or three actors?” Michael Serignese, Senior CCSU theatre student, who played Pridamant, asked, likely taking words out of some viewers’ mouths.
“You find out at the end that it’s supposed to be like that. The ending definitely is a huge surprise to everybody who sees it the first time, I don’t think anybody sees it coming.” claims Serignese.
At the end, the audience learns that the visions portrayed of Pridamant’s son are not entirely real, because he is alive and well. What his father saw was merely scenes from his performances as an actor, making the basis for the eventual major plot twist.
“I knew the ending before I read it, and I wish I hadn’t. Reading a play out loud is always so much different than reading it silently. When I read it by myself I was like ‘I don’t really like this play’.” Malloy claimed.
This feeling quickly shifted, possible through time and a great director, who is backed and highly praised by all of the show’s cast.
“When we read it as a group, and I could hear the different voices and characters as we went through. Thom, the director, was giving us suggestions as we went along, it was like ‘oh, wow! This is taking place on a much more epic plane than I ever thought was possible for the show.'” said Malloy.
Serignese also had great moments to share in his working with the director, Thom Delventhal.
“Working with Thom is always a breath of fresh air. He has this amazing ability to pull things out of your soul that you don’t even know are there. You’ll look back at the end of a run and you have no idea where it came from. It’s been a larger than life experience.” said Serignese. “It has been such an honor working work this particular cast and crew. Normally, we rehearse for six weeks before putting up a show; this production gave us only fourteen rehearsals after snow cancelations; a testament to the talent and commitment of [all] those involved.”
“And here we are — it’s the last night with the makeup and the wig and fat suit. I think my favorite part of this entire process has been the fat suit.” joked Serignese. “For those of us who are on our final college performance, or close to it, we couldn’t think of a better way to go out than with this group. It’s been a ride, that’s for sure.”
The cast worked on several techniques to develop their respective character portrayals correctly.
“We do a lot of physical and vocal work to create character. You explore how does wind feel on this part of your body, how does fire feel on that part of your body. It’s allowing yourself to be open to unexpected things. Vocally; I worked a lot on this piece, imagining what kind of voice would Alcandre have?” said Malloy.
“And in the moments when Priadamant’s having a lot of fun and letting himself be a part of the magic – vocally I was able to use a lot of the upper register of my voice, and be more fluid in my motions.” said Serignese.
When Pridamant reverts back to his old ways, it is a pivotal point for the characters.
“You see Pridamant go on this powerful journey, only to see him go back and be just as cold in the end.” said Serignese.
After showcasing their skills in what may be their final college performance, what lies on the path ahead for these two graduating theatre students?
“I’m moving to Boston and I’m really excited to be a part of the theatre scene there, I’m really interested in creating my own devised works. Doing theatre for social change and that kind of thing. ” said Malloy.
As for Serginese, the future is looking somewhat similar. “I’ll be taking a year off from school, re-auditioning for graduate programs next year.”
Serignese also plans on continuing something he and some fellow students began some time ago. “Last summer, a bunch of theatre students from Central, and friends from home, shot a pilot: ‘Clifford’s Sacrifice-An Italian Bistro’.
When asked what else the fall holds for him, Serignese responded, “Auditions, auditions, auditions … no one’s going to come to you, you have to seek out the work yourself.”