Monday, May 14, 2007

Alice in Wonderland Has Carrabeaners attached to her Pants

Alice has it going on when it comes to being lowered from the rafters in a hula hoop dangling from a rope. No fear of heights, that one.

I'm talking about careening down a rabbit hole before jetting off on a daring, madcap, bouncy fandango based on Lewis Carroll's books, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. And it all looks very hard on the knees.

On Saturday, in Philadelphia, in celebration of my BIRTHDAY, Tom and I walked a sneaker-worthy distance, in the rain, to see the play Lookingglass Alice produced by the Lookingglass Theatre. The Lookingglass Theatre is not a Theater, but an actor troupe begun by David Schwimmer. David used his bar mitzvah money for the startup twenty years ago when he was in college. Then he left to pursue less dangerous avenues of income generation.

I read on the NPR web site that the actor troupe found an unemployed circus performer to ante up some tips on high altitude drama. I would assume this was after David Schwimmer left the act. I can't imagine Ross with the strength, flexibility and balance necessary for safe aerial work.

The performance doesn't get too far before We, the quick-witted audience, soon figure out that the entire theater is a chessboard and Alice, a pawn who encounters "curiouser and curiouser" characters on her journey to become a queen:
  • A discombobulated caterpillar consisting of three guys in striped shirts and skull caps leap-frogging around
  • Sprightly, fuzzy hedgehogs with drunken giggles and turrets syndrome
  • a White Knight and his faithful bicycle mount and a shiny helmet. He reminds me of Marvin the Martian. Except a black and white negative version. Covered in strange graffiti and able to do a full leg split.
  • The imposing Red Queen Drag Queen stands ten feet tall and glides around on a covert dolly hidden under her massive dress.
The highlight of the evening for me is the frenzied Mad Hatter's tea party scene. Revelers create a sort of fortlike runway out of chairs. They sprint over them, hop around on them, and hurl them into a big choreographed pile up.

I'm sure some deep-thinker will come up with ramblings about how the brio of this vigorous performance serves the story and its themes. For instance, Humpty Dumpty's shocking fall could be interpreted as Alice's coming to terms with loss and grief. Yeah, ok, whatever. It was a crazy stunt.

Larry DiStasi, one of the actors, says:

"I think there's a big message about holding on to your childhood and not being so eager to go in a straight line forward to maturity, because there's so much that is wonderful and magical about childhood."

He is clearly a deep thinker. And also very entertaining.

Lookingglass Alice is currently playing in Philadelphia's Arden Theatre thru June 10, 2007. I highly recommend it for a lively evening out.

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