Grand Delusion

Review by Willard Manus

Most wars are fought for meaningless, trivial reasons. That goes especially for the First World War, which was triggered by the assassination of an Austrian archduke by two Serbian ultra-nationalists. The death of one man (an obscure, unpleasant one at that) turned what should have been a localized incident into a major conflagration, thanks to the irrationality and stupidity of Europe's leaders, men like Kaiser Wilhelm, Count Berchtold, Czar Nicholas II and Raymond Poincare. With their vain, pompous natures, their imperialistic values and lack of humanity, their secret, alliances and cabals, they blundered into a war that eventually claimed millions of innocent lives.

In GRAND DELUSION, seen recently at The Lost Studio in its world-premiere run, playwright David Rock fictionalizes a backroom meeting between those so-called "statesmen" and uses a Marx Brothers approach to poke fun at them. Burlesque, mockery, puns, pratfalls and fart jokes are just part of Rock's comic arsenal. His rude, irreverent view of history--his sources were Barbara Tuchman's Guns of August and Jean Renoir's Grand Illusion--came off well thanks to Larry Biederman's inventive direction and the cast's spirited performances, but the production would undoubtedly have benefited from several more weeks of rehearsal (farce being such a demanding theatrical form). Still, actors Kurt Fuller, Xander Berkeley, Timothy Omandson, Eric Stonestreet, Tim Banning, Brad Raider and Amanda Detmer gave their all and drew enough laughs to keep most of the audience happy (though some departed after the rough-house first act.)

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