Review: Illusions (SideMart Theatrical Grocery)

Illusions is a dark tragicomedy about love, on stage at Crow’s Theatre in Toronto

SideMart Theatrical Grocery presents the first English version of Illusions, written by Russian playwright Ivan Viripaev and translated by Casimir Liske. Playing in Leslieville’s Crow’s Theatre, it’s a romantic tragicomedy that will make you gasp, groan and giggle at this creatively narrated story about love and lies.

Love is indeed alive in different forms among four friends, who form two seemingly happy couples. Four narrators — Laurence Dauphinais, Marie Eve Perron, Brett Donahue and Andrew Shaver — tell the story of Dennis and Sandra (first couple) and of Albert and Margaret (second couple).

In a nutshell, the four lovebirds are in their eighties and have enjoyed solid marriages for 50 years. After Dennis’ death (before which he thanked Sandra for his life of love and responsibility), Sandra finally reveals her secret love for Albert to Albert himself; Albert reveals to Margaret that he’s discovered a newly awoken love for Sandra. And Margaret, with her fine sense of humour, exposes her own grand secret.

The storytellers provoke our empathy and keep us captivated, as we sympathize with the characters’s frustrations and heartbreak. For me, the stand-out performer was Marie Eve Perron. One highlight of her performance was her manoeuvering of vintage figurines on her arm to represent the heartfelt revelations of Sandra, Albert and Margaret. Bravo to Perron for the balancing act on her outstretched arm, which had taken a stage-like quality.

The confessions, told by Perron in heavily accented English, are impassioned and physically expressed; she takes up a lot of space in the room for this domestic drama. She keeps us laughing at the couples, while we laugh at ourselves. When one of the male actors corrects her English, we are reminded of how our own partners can interrupt our own train of thought in an annoying fashion.

The other highlight to Perron’s performance involves her using the emergency exit, the exterior window, and the city sidewalk. As Albert frantically calls all of his friends in search of the missing Margaret, Perron plays the prankster Margaret who is hiding in the wardrobe. This is staged by Perron who runs outside using a side door. The window blinds behind the stage are raised, and we see Perron outside in the cold, yelling through the wall/wardrobe door. It was delightfully comedic and original.

Illusions is playing at an attractive venue that I was happy to discover for the first time. Crow’s Theatre is in a welcoming space on the ground floor of a Leslieville condo development called Streetcar Crowsnest. The lobby has high ceilings near which there is an installation of white birds flying beside Carlaw Avenue. With the dark wooden features of the entrance, the elegant bar, the chill music, and the ticket-takers dressed in black, you feel like you are being primed for a creative experience.

An innovatively told story is what you’ll get at Illusions, as you ponder what love is, what we need to say or to hide when we love, and whether or not love must be mutual to be true love. These reflections will be complemented by French a cappella music from four committed artists. Go see Illusions to see this enthralling story for yourself!

Details

  • Illusions plays at Crow’s Theatre (345 Carlaw Avenue) until May 7, 2017.
  • Performances run Wednesday to Sunday at 8:30 pm with weekend matinees at 2:30 pm.
  • Tickets are $35 ($25 for student and seniors) and can be purchased in person at the Crows Theatre Box Office, by calling 647-341-7390 ext. 1010 or online.
  • The performance is 85 minutes with no intermission.

Photo from company’s Facebook page

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