Paper Glass is an intimate adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass that glows with innocence and childlike wonder. The piece is created and performed by Monica Dionysiou who does a wonderful job telling a tale of creativity and imagination using the classic works of Carroll. The piece is small and cozy and most of all generous. It is a beautiful little tale about the fears of growing up that uses imagination to create something special.
The show is crammed into the upper level of The Argonaut, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This piece deserves an intimate setting, and it uses it to the fullest advantage. The trappings of the bar quickly fall away, and thanks to some wonderfully creative uses of space and an entirely engrossing performance by Dionysiou, the space quickly feels like one’s childhood room. It’s impossible not to be transported to the past, remembering late nights hiding under the covers to read a few extra pages. It’s that feeling of warmth that precedes worry that Paper Glass hits right on the head.
Of course, not everything is warm and cozy in this coming of age story. School is hard and unforgiving, the adult world is cold and scary, and rules are illogical and unflinching. At the heart of the show is a child’s coming to terms with the unfathomable grown up world. This often seems to be at the cost of creativity, which has no place among the manners expected from the story’s authority figures. But the show’s triumph is its clinging to creativity. It is often the life raft in the face of terror and it is what gives the play, filled with symbolic props and set pieces, a twinkle in its eye.
by Lewis Carroll and Monica Dionysiou
Directed by Elizabeth Horab
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Paper Glass is heartfelt and endearing, made all the more so by Dionysiou’s wonderful solo performance. Her craft is astonishing, and she is able to convey different characters with affective authenticity in mere seconds. And while her strict teacher and dreamy mother are well performed, it is her child protagonist that really shines. She wraps up the innocence and joy, rebellion and fear, love and longing of childhood and lets it fuel an inspired performance. With light in her eyes, she not only plays a child, but also makes you remember all of what it was to be a child.
That memory of childhood is what’s at stake in Paper Glass, for both characters and audience. Luckily, the play gently guides us along a tender tour through those moments that make us who we are. It is soft and sweet and full of wonder, like those last few pages read under the covers.