Illuzzio (or a Man's Best Servant Is Himself) 

Illuzzio (or a Man's Best Servant Is Himself), at the Chopin Theatre. Nicholas Korn, who wrote the book and lyrics for this musical, directs a theater in Cincinnati that specializes in the classics--and it shows. Illuzzio is a pastiche of styles and influences: the plot is reminiscent of Shakespeare's comedies and of the farces of Moliere and Carlo Goldoni. Meanwhile the costumes and makeup could have been lifted from Charlie Chaplin's silent shorts.

This is both good and bad. Since Korn, who also directs, knows his way around classical comedy, he flies where less-informed directors might fall. The play's chaotic ending is funny only because he knows exactly how to bide his time, then pile one insane twist on top of another. And his plot is strong despite its implausible premise: a man who can't afford a servant plays his own servant to impress a woman. On the other hand, Korn is so steeped in this old-fashioned genre that much of the dialogue sounds like a pompous, badly translated French farce. And he doesn't seem to realize that the mistaken-identity plot can feel tired today. (As far as I'm concerned, once a character has lied to a woman, he's proved himself unworthy of a happy ending.)

A strong score might have won me over. Sadly, Allen Lindsey's music and Korn's lyrics are totally forgettable.

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