By Ian Swaby
The Cayman Drama Society is this year celebrating five decades of bringing renowned theatrical works to the Cayman Islands. Opening its 50th year with a bang the society is bringing to the stage The Illusion, a mysterious tale that offers a drama of familial estrangement set against a backdrop of comedy and a touch of sorcery.
The story takes place in France during the 17th century and is adapted by Tony Kushner from the French comedy of the same period, L'Illusion Comique. However, its themes are timeless and its alchemic blend of genres and themes sure to resonate with viewers of all kinds.
“CDS has presented many kinds of plays but none which mix history, drama, comedy, language and a little bit of magic in the way that Kushner’s play does,” says theatre manager Paul de Freitas, who is also directing the show. “It is important for CDS to always broaden its scope and present challenging works for our audiences.”
As the play begins, audiences will find themselves before the dark recesses of a stage bordered by drapes to form the mysterious interior of a magician’s cave. “The spectacle is in the mind as it is so often in life as we take in our surroundings,” remarks de Freitas on the minimal décor.
It is in this evocative setting that a story of comedy and tragedy unfolds. Uptight father Pridamant seeks to discover why his son has run away, but as the magician, Alcandre, reveals scenes from the son’s life, the father may realise that the truth is not what he expects – or wants.
The line-up includes Stephen Wise as Pridamant, Dante Bilcharis and Ben Tatum as his son, and Martin Campion as Alcandre. Performing in the show are seasoned actors as well as talented newcomers, though de Freitas notes that the audience will be hard-pressed to work out which is which.
As the CDS opens its 50th year of performances, de Freitas believes that The Illusion is the perfect way to carry on the society’s mission. “There is a place for popular plays and musicals which are very well known to us all – but we need new stimuli in the mix,” he remarks. “The Illusion is such a play, and I think that audiences will love it.
“If you like great dialogue, you will like The Illusion. If you like mystery, you will like The Illusion. If you like the passions and competing nature of young love, you will like The Illusion. And if you like the comedy of life, you will like The Illusion.”
Indeed, could there be a more magical way to celebrate fifty years of the personal connection that theatre offers between actor and audience, than with a play which presents its story through the lens of fantasy and is also thoroughly human?
Celebrating 50 years
The CDS played a major role in the establishment of a performing arts community in Cayman, staging the islands’ first-ever play with full scenery and costumes, “See How They Run”, at the Town Hall in 1970. The production was a resounding success that revealed the public’s previously hidden appetite for theatre.
The CDS continued to perform at the Town Hall over the next 14 years, before moving in 1985 due to renovations. It took up residence at the Harquail Theatre and later on, the Victory Theatre dinner venue it opened in Trafalgar Place alongside Peter Phillips, owner of Lord Nelson Pub.
In 1990, the CDS hosted the grand opening of its new facility, the Prospect Playhouse, a project which had been in the works since 1981 and which is the location where it is still based today.
Across the years, the CDS has staged a wide range of plays that include West Side Story, Camelot, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Diary of Anne Frank, and countless others. Since 2014, each year it has held A Playhouse Family Christmas, now a Caymanian holiday tradition.
Paul de Freitas credits the society’s success to the executive committees of the past, but also to the enduring nature of theatre itself.
“There is no entertainment which is more personal than the communication between an actor on stage and the audience watching,” he said.
The Illusion; dates and ticket details
The Illusion will be staged at the CDS at 7:30 pm Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, from February 20 – 22, February 27 – 29, and March 5 – 7. The play runs for approximately two hours and 15 minutes.
Due to moderate adult themes, The Illusion is recommended for ages 15 and up.
Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for ages 12 and under, and they can be purchased at cds.ky