Theatre is not just about what happens on the stage it is also about the venue, the outside of the building, the way it smells, the sounds, and the audience. So it’s July. It’s hot. It’s Sunday. It’s the second performance of Through the Looking Glass. The venue is cement block with graffiti letters over the doors that spell “The Shop.” I walked right past it the first time; that’s when the performance started.
“The Shop” was a dark hole. The rabbit hole. Oops, wrong Alice-or maybe not. While the official taxonomy is experimental, Through the Looking wasn’t that experimental; it was a collection of all the archetypes that find their way into Lewis Carroll adaptations. There were the same “mean girl” flowers; the same Tweedledee and Tweedledum, (though Brittany Graham and Jo Higbee roused the audience for the first time with their rendition of “The Walrus and the Carpenter”), and there was the same Red Queen.
The six women on stage were wearing a collection of white T-shirts and shorts. It made them hard to keep straight. Deliberate, perhaps, it helped them morph from one character to the next as most of them played multiple roles. Some were better at this than others. Sometimes, the shifts from one character to another were not clear and it took a moment to realize who they were among Carroll’s famous creatures. If you were not familiar with the story, it could be confusing at times. For instance, I never would have guessed the one scene involved a lizard except that the program announced it.
Shannon Connell’s choreography made the whole piece cohesive and it was obviously carefully rehearsed. From the very first scene where Alice is building a house of cards to the “fight” of the Red Knight and the White Knight they used their bodies in a way that connected one spastic scene to the next. I was hoping for a little more comedy, a little more passion, a little more stylization, in their limbs. But they made it look easy which is a good start for any production that attempts to use the human body.
There were a few moments of comedy and interaction with the audience, but a lady in the front row was still nodding off. Alice, performer Alex Keiper, was half-hearted. Capable of one expression-consternation (at loosing her reflection, I presume?) we miss the funny, self-righteous, vain little girl that was Carroll’s Alice. More nuances were possible, but instead Alice displayed a single emotion.
I left wanting more physicality and less anonymity. I wanted more individuals on stage and fewer Lewis Carroll clichés. But the couple beside me said, “That’s better than anything else today.” And I would have to agree. The venue was a perfect choice for the performance. The play itself was professional and sleek, though I was hoping for more energy. Alice must have grown up because this performance, missing a lot of the silliness and nonsense that make Carroll indispensable, was a little too sedate.
- Running Time: 30-35
- Tickets: Through the Looking Glass
- Remaining Shows: Wed, July 16 at 8 . Sun, July 20 at 8
- Where: The Shop at Fort Fringe, 607 New York Ave, NW