Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Review: Another Love Triangle

By Michael Block 

Lust and love are age old ideas that seemingly get intertwined and often are a source of misguided tension and heartbreak. Such is the case in Alex Polanco's The Illusion of Love. When a cast of down and out characters hoping to change their paths gets caught up in love and lies, their futures are forever changed as truths are revealed.
photo by Alex Polanco
Playing the Paradise Factory as part of Planet Connections, The Illusion of Love is a cinematic style stage play that doesn't quite find its footing. Whether it was the overall pacing or the lack of intrigue in a non-innovative story, The Illusion of Love is a typical drama about the games we play to get what we want. Michael is a hopeless romantic who doesn’t know love’s boundaries. After only a few short months, he has proposed to his girlfriend Veronica. Only she’s involved in a blackmail lust-ship with Michael’s “friend” Richie. How Richie and Veronica are acquainted? The strip club. What happens when Michael inevitably learns the truth? Exactly what you expect. Polanco’s story has a diluted love triangle. It’s a story of lust, trust, and betrayal that tried a bit too hard to be profound. There was very little that wasn’t predictable and that does not bring intrigue. The way Polanco structured the script left a burning question of whose story The Illusion of Love was. As it stands now, Polanco tries to give Richie, Michael, and Veronica equal attention but they seem to lack a completely realized arc. Once Polanco discovers this, the focus can be pinpointed properly. The one fascinating addition to the production was in a world of realism were the bookends of the dumbshows. Aided by raucous musical accompaniment, the story of the moments weren’t as clear as they could have been. If they were eliminated, nothing would have been lost. But as it stands now, it takes away from the ending of the text.
As a whole, the performances were not as refined as they could have been. As Michael, Phillip Iweriebor had the essence of the goofy best friend as opposed to the strong lead. And he was completely lost next to the standout performance from Pablo B. Sandstrom. As Richie, Sandstrom had cinematic gruffness. It was subtle but effective. He managed to make even the biggest of clich├ęs lines sound dangerously seductive. Playing the cog of betrayal, Paris Scott grew as the play proceeded. By the end, Scott found the strength and determination of Veronica. If only it came sooner.
With a multi-locational script, director Danielle C.N. Zappa was forced to bring variety into the staging. The tight space was certainly a source of woes but she did occasionally utilize the stairs that lead to the landing. When it came to visual appeal, Zappa knew what she was doing. Those chairs! The silver chairs were sleek and perfect for the world of the play. As far as getting the most out of characters, Zappa did not find as much success. Whether it was difficulty finding nuances of the text, Zappa couldn’t get her actors out of the one-dimensionality of the characters.
The Illusion of Love on paper is an intriguing exploration of story but it sadly was lacking in execution. There is work to be done but with some polishing, The Illusion of Love has potential.