Archikulture Digest

Alice Lost In Wonderland

Alice Lost In Wonderland

Written and Directed by Rob Winn Anderson

Starring Becky Eck, Taylor Anderson, Meaghan Fenner, and Alexander Mrazek

Beth Marshall Presents at

The Garden Theatre, Winter Garden FL</strong>

I went into this show with great trepidation; I’ve yet to see an “Alice” staging that even begins to work. The problem lies in the story, it’s a hallucination that ties into the toys and objects and fears of little Alice’s playroom. Writers love the weird characters and surreal scenes, but there’s not much drama in the original. Alice takes direction and reacts to the weirdness, but mostly she is simply is along for the ride. Here writer / director Anderson has largely dodged those issues, he re-imagines the story not as a children’s fantasy but as a psychotic hallucination experienced in a 1950’s hospital that prides itself on its lobotomies and electroshock.

We meet Jane (Eck) as a woman who’s lost and abused. Her anchor in life is an imagined friendship with Alice (Taylor Anderson) from Carroll’s book. Evil doctor Barb (Fenner) plans to clear up this friendship by applying both electroshock and the lobotomy in one horrid operation. It might be kinder just to OD her on morphine. Alice becomes fragmented and Jane has more powerful hallucinations; only kind orderly Mr. Gwynn is there to help her thought the crisis as the White Rabbit. The other denizens of Nurse Ratched Memorial appear, the Mock Turtle (Nicholas Bethencourt) hears constant music in his head, the Caterpillar (Todd Caviness) smokes imaginary cigarettes to calm his nerves and the guy in the straight jacket (Wesley Slade) becomes the Mad Hatter.

Eck’s Jane is frightened and not in control of her situation yet maintains a positive edge in the chaos and works out most of the puzzles tossed at her. Fenner was particularity gruesome; she embodies everything evil that happens when your reality slides away to nothingness. Caviness did a great job of mixing the Caterpillar’s stream of conscience with his own open mike skills, and Mrazek was the comforting presence of a person that cares even when that’s not his job. Other strong supports in this cacophony include Mike Deaven playing Tweedledum like Alex from Clockwork Orange and the brave Dormouse (Erick Nelson) who took a stand to defend Alice at the end.

All of this mayhem took place on a luminous and threatening set from Tommy Mangieri, they even made Alice expand and shrink with some very clever staging. Why she expanded was left open, and some of the scenes (The Tea Party and Croquet Match) seemed to exist because people expect them to exist, rather than to propel the story. Still, this is by far the best imaging of “Alice” as I’ve seen; it makes her more than a leaf on the stream of bad dream and more like a real person fighting a real problem. She may not triumph but she made another day without sinking deeper. Be warned, this is NOT a show suitable for small children. But it is a great piece of literature staged in a though provoking and innovative fashion, and full of topical discussions on the ride home.

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