Friday, July 2, 2010

New Review Posted: Lookingglass Alice

Another week of extra-blog worries, another week of no posting. (And my connection to a few of the things on which I might post is a little too personal for me to think of a good way to write on them just yet.) And when I had a  review published on Monday, too! Shame on me.

Anyhow, Lookingglass Alice is pretty damn cool. It has issues in terms of storytelling and emotional heft--any version is necessarily episodic, which this doesn't fix, and few of the poignant moments really connect the way they're supposed to. But damn if it doesn't make you ooooh and aaaah over and over again. It's best for kids (and there weren't that many the night I went), but there's more than enough for adults to love. Who says we don't deserve to go oooooh and aaaahhh too?

Anyhow, here's the text:

There is one thing any adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice novels must be: full of wonders. And while "Lookingglass Alice" has some flaws, it is a stunning success by that standard. There isn't a show in town with a higher wow-to-minute ratio.
The play, adapted by David Catlin, who also directs, follows the structure of "Alice Through the Looking Glass," using material both from that novel and from "Alice in Wonderland." Using a cast of only five, it embodies scenes from the novels with stunning clowning and circus work. Everything from the Caterpillar to the mad tea party to Humpty Dumpty appears, but none just replicate the images to which we're accustomed — the production re-imagines them in a thrillingly theatrical way.

It suffers from the primary flaw that any adaptation of the source material does: the novels are episodic, lacking any compelling dramatic throughline. This is fine on the page, but can leave any live version feeling like a string of brilliant moments that don't entirely connect. Catlin's version makes connections between the story and the process of growing up, but it doesn't solve the problem. And though all of the displays of circus arts are stunning, some go on too long.

But when the show is this entertaining, it's hard to care. The cast is spectacular, with each member having multiple moments to shine while working as a flawless ensemble (all but Alice play a wide variety of parts). Alice never leaves the stage, and Lindsey Noel Whiting makes us love her while making the acrobatics look easy. Among the many great characters created by the other actors are Molly Brennan's imperious Red Queen (do not check your cell phone when she's onstage), Anthony Fleming III's sinuous Cheshire Cat, Thomas J. Cox's daffy White Knight, and Kevin Douglas' crazed Mad Hatter. All five (and the superb designers and stage crew) make the magic happen, and it's a wonder.

No comments: