Sunday, February 2, 2003

'Illuzio' percolates from trip to Paris

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Nicholas Korn can thanks Delta for his new Illuzio (or A Man's Best Servant Is Himself), an original comedy in the classic French style, fitted with almost a dozen songs by Allen Lindsey. It opens Thursday for a two-week run as part of Stage First's season at the Aronoff's Fifth Third Bank Theater.

Korn's wife, Nancy, is a flight attendant. A year ago he got to go along on a round-trip to Paris.

He made a pilgrimage to the Comedie Francaise (which was, unfortunately, not producing during his visit) "and in the middle of the night, I woke up. It wasn't jet lag, it was the seed of the idea for a show."

For everyone who has been dazzled by his translations and adaptations from Lysistrata (better than the one that played at top regional theaters last year) to Moliere, this is a happy piece of news.

Korn liked the idea of a pair of libertines competing for the hand of an ingÈnue, of a servant besting his master, of making the male love interest a comic character.

He pulled out his pen and notepad on the trans-Atlantic flight home, wrote Illuzio's outline in about an hour and fleshed it out from there.

Comic complications and disguises pile up. If you haven't guessed, the character "Illuzio" doesn't exist (Korn loves wordplay), but by the final scene three separate characters are pretending to be him.

While the format is inspired by an earlier century, the action is set in a world where silent screen clowns Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton would feel at home in the cast of characters:

There's wealthy bourgeois gentleman Poppalini (Joe Hornbaker); many times widowed Flibertina (Sherry McCamley), Lobotto - yes, the similarity to "lobotomy" is intentional - (Brian Berendts), another servant Baribaldi (Jim Stump is shaving his head for the occasion), rakish Nothario-sounds-like-Lothario (Jay Woffington), Flibertina's poor but honest nephewDemetrio (Mark Helphinstine) and more.

This may not be the last we see of these characters. "This could easily be franchiseable," judges Korn. "There are threads that could be followed in a sequel and new characters that could be introduced."

For now, Illuzio continues through Feb. 16. Thursday's opening night celebration post-performance at Bella includes a complimentary buffet.

Stage First: 241-7469.

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