“We’re all mad here”
Nouveau 47 is hosting one of the craziest tea parties you will ever attend, with their re-imagining of Lewis Carroll’s classic story and poems.
“Alice in Wonderland and Other Hallucinations” directed by Tom Parr is currently on stage at the Magnolia Lounge in Fair Park.
The first act is a delightful, albeit bizarre collection of Carroll’s poems, beginning with “Rules and Regulations” and culminating in “The Hunting of the Snark.”
The poems appear to be meant to build off of one another as a sort of warm-up for the second act of the play, which is a very creative version of “Alice” originally dreamed up by Andre Gregory of The Manhattan Project.
“Rules and Regulations” cleverly presents the announcements usually presented in a curtain speech, i.e. silence your cell phones, how to exit the theater etc., which make the speech just delivered superfluous and annoying.
“Phantasmagoria” very smartly plays with shadow puppets, but grows rather tedious as rhymed meter often does, no matter how well Clay Wheeler and Randy Pearlman deliver it.
“Snark” is by far the most entertaining of the poems, with Danielle Pickard as an adorable Beaver and Wheeler as the gruff butcher.
The second act is exponentially better than the first. N47 performed this same "Alice" in last year’s Festival of Independent Theater at the Bath House Cultural Center to rave reviews.
In this version, Alice is a young homeless girl, who finds Carroll’s novel on the street and picks it up and re-envisions her life according to the story. It’s a wonderful way to portray the importance of literature and imagination.
Pickard is a charming Alice, as she captures the whimsical naivety, without losing the gritty aspect of being a young homeless child. She also stands out as an exceptionally physical actor, as she moves about the stage, sometimes thrown about by the other actors.
The actors superbly fill their roles. Ben Bryant, who transitions from character to character almost unrecognizably, does an excellent turn as the Caterpillar. Brian Witowicz is another delightful actor, who has full control over his voice and the meter of his lines, as he takes on different characters throughout the show.
But nothing rivals the scene of the topsy-turvy tea party, with Wheeler as the Mad Hatter. One thing that this production captures well is the insanity and creativity of Carroll's story. Parr is not afraid to have the actors blur the lines between what is taking place in Alice's mind and what the homeless characters in the story are actually doing in their day-to-day life.
“Alice in Wonderland & Other Hallucinations” is a fascinating play, even if it starts off a little bit rough. It is onstage through April 23. Visit Nouveau 47’s website for more info.
All Photos by Jim Kuenzer.