“I see the head of Voltaire” Alice says in Kira Obolensky’s Lobster Alice, looking at a painting by Salvador Dalí in a certain way. Things are seldom what they seem in the famous surrealist’s work. The same can be said of Flying V’s awesome production set in a Walt Disney animator’s office.
It is 1946 and Disney artists are hard at work on Alice in Wonderland. John Finch’s drab office has two wooden desks (the other for Alice Horowitz, his secretary.) At center is Finch’s drawing table. It is Monday morning. Alice, as curious as her namesake, arrives early, sees a cup that reads Drink Me, and does. A noticeable tingle of pleasure runs through her body. By the time Finch arrives, she has ordered a curiouser and curiouser set of items from a list left on her desk.
Finch, as twitchy and tentative as a rabbit, asks about her weekend. He knows part of the answer. They spent a disappointing evening on her couch. But his mood changes when he tells her about the new project – a Disney art film to be created by Salvador Dalí. Not like that failure Fantasia, he hopes.
Cue the entrance of the flamboyant art trickster himself, and we’re off down a surrealist rabbit hole. Finch asks Dalí what Wonderland looks like to him. “Perhaps like this office” he replies.
That line is surely one of the biggest gifts a playwright has ever given a creative team. Director Amber Jackson and her designers take it and run. How can we pop up a rabbit hole? and What would a deadline look like to Dalí? you can almost hear them ask each other. We see their conjurings and many more delightfully ingenious solutions, none of which shall be revealed to you here. Expect the unexpected is all we shall say.
Perhaps least expected, along into the second act of this wildly amusing absurdist comedy, is the five minutes or so when, amidst the clutter of all those delivered Dalí-like objects, a ballet breaks out.
As John Finch, Daniel Corey, who we just saw as one of a sextet of cohabitors in Pol Pot & Associates, LLP at Longacre Lea, proves he deserves leading man status. His comic timing couldn’t be sharper, his face registers all the pent up frustrations of repressed love, and his come-to-Jesus monologue in defense of the minions of Disney’s unnamed artists is surely Award worthy.
Jenny Donovan, as Alice who yearns for a far more interesting life, has wonderful fun dallying with Dalí, popping in and out of the rabbit hole, all while waiting for John to come to his senses. But perhaps her greatest performance is as Woman with Flower Head in that ballet with Ryan Alan Jones.
Jones, who plays both Thornton, Alice’s love who died in the war, and a caterpillar (it’s Wonderland, remember) combines admirable acting and good looks with movement skills that would be at home on a Synetic stage. He is at his best in that ballet, easily lifting Alice horizontally over all those set pieces then leading her through an exquisite pas-de-deux.
Closes October 12, 2014
Flying V Theatre Company at
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh Street
2 hours with 1 intermission
Thursdays thru Sundays
But all this would be lost with a lesser Dalí. Zachary Fernebok, best known as a playwright, so completely embodies the florid painter, he even coaxes his right eye to stray slightly to the left in some of Dalí’s most mad moments. Fernebok raises the absurdist mood every time he enters a scene, even bounding Groucho-like across the set, no matter what’s in his way.
Compliments go to scenic designer Jos. B. Musemeci, Jr and his crew who have overcome the Writer’s Center stage limitations by condensing the playing space, and building a raised set which provides multiple chances for entrances and exits.
Lobster Alice is a spectacular production of a very funny absurdist play. I know it’s a busy Fall season, but make sure you see this one. You have until October 12th to get there. Even the ticket price is absurd at $15.
Lobster Alice by Kira Obolensky . Directed by Amber Jackson . Featuring Daniel Corey, Jenny Donovan, Ryan Alan Jones and Zachary Fernebok . Scenic design: Jos. B. Musumeci Jr . Costume design: Deb Sivigny . Lighting design: Kristin A. Thompson . Sound design: Neil McFadden . Props and set dressing: Deb Crerie and Kay Rzasa . Technical director: Andrew Berry . Master carpenter: Vaughn Irving . Scenic charge: Mary Cat Gill . Managing director and Fight choreographer: Jonathan Era Rubin . Stage manager: Allie Heiman, assisted by Nelly Diaz and Keta Newborn . Produced by Flying V . Reviewed by Lorraine Treanor.
PS – As unlikely as it seems, Disney did indeed commission Salvador Dalí to sketch his impressions of Alice in Wonderland and to create the art film Destino. It was never released and lay forgotten in the Disney vaults until Roy Disney discovered it in 1999. Here it is and you can also see it as you leave the theatre.
Closes Oct 12
Heather Hill . MDTheatreGuide Fernebok plays Dali to perfection, bringing the zany, the curious, the fabulous and the outrageous all into one person
Andrew White . BroadwayWorld In Zachary Fernebok it’s safe to say that Dali has met his match. Anarchic, erotic and more than half-mad…
Cyle Durkee . DCMetroTheaterArts will leave you joyful without letting you know why you’re happy.