Joan Marcus
Adam Markovitz
June 08, 2011 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Illusion

Current Status
In Season
run date
Peter Bartlett
Michael Mayer
Tony Kushner

We gave it an A-

Baroque fantasy and modern-day wit mix happily in the Signature Theatre Company’s sparkling Off Broadway revival of Tony Kushner’s 1988 play The Illusion, a play-within-a-play adapted from Pierre Corneille’s unnervingly cutting-edge ‘L’Illusion Comique’ (1636). In the story’s outermost frame, set in 17th-century France: A wealthy lawyer (David Margulies), plagued by grief over banishing his son (Finn Wittrock) 15 years ago, visits the cave of a magician (Lois Smith) who shows him dreamlike visions of his lost child’s life.

Those apparitions become the core of the narrative, as the roguish son woos both a lovesick maiden (Amanda Quaid) and her crafty servant (a terrifically droll Merritt Wever), while tangling with a rival (Sean Dugan) and an inept aristocrat (Peter Bartlett). Meticulously staged by director Michael Mayer (American Idiot) as a clockwork cabinet of curiosities, the play trots along like so much tragicomic fluff — gilded with Kushner’s virtuosic dialogue — until a few inspired twists bring its flickering realities into perfect focus. A-

(Tickets: or 212-244-7529)

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