Lewis Carroll’s famous tales of Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass wears a new look in Baltimore Center Stage’s Lookingglass Alice. As reimagined by David Caplin, Wonderland becomes urbanized, Carroll’s poetry becomes spoken word, and a petulant Alice becomes a young woman of color on a journey of self-confidence.
It’s a grand ambition that, though it doesn’t always work, is nonetheless an homage to the original source material. The play itself isn’t so much a linear progression as a pastiche of the stories we know: The Tea Party, The Red Queen, The Croquet Game.
It takes a while to get off the ground. The very first scene is downright confusing- Alice (Markita Prescott) sings a plaintive song that seems to have little to do with the storyline. We get little to no introduction to Alice as she is in her own ‘normal’ world, and we need that if Wonderland is to be Wonderland. And it must be said that though this is intended for family audiences six and up, it’s best if kids who know the stories before they go- they won’t get much insight from the play. I found myself wondering what I would make of it if I were six and didn’t know the stories by heart already; and the answer is, I simply would not know what was going on most of the time.
And that’s really a pity. Director Jeremy B Cohen and his artistic team have created a beautiful show visually. There are moments of great ingenuity during the evening, particularly in the subtle hip hop and sports inspired costumes by David Burdick; the Red Queen has some of the most fantabulous costumes you’ll see on a stage this season. The technical stuff by Tim Macabee is marvelous- swings hang from the ceiling, actors climb dangling ropes, and an enormous curtain of white fringe is used to spectacular effect as a backdrop for the fine projections by Projection Designer Caite Hevner.
One of my favorite effects of the evening was the Tea Party- a huge oversized picnic basket that disgorges teapot, cups, quite a few chairs and a ten-foot table à la Mary Poppins’ carpet bag.
Though it’s not really a musical, there’s music and dancing, and several performers play instruments. The show is mostly an ensemble piece, with all actors, save Alice, playing multiple parts. Two actors were real standouts.
Garret Turner, as the White Rabbit, White Knight, Wicket, and March Hare is not only wildly different in all these roles but easily the most agile person on stage, with a dancer’s moves and grace. And his rendering of ‘Jabberwocky’ was simply electric- he took that poem and ran with it.
closes December 31, 2017
Details and tickets
David Darrow, as the Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, Caterpillar, and Humpty Dumpty was equally mesmerizing- and such a variety of voices he has in his repertoire! His Humpty Dumpty as a philosophizing know-it-all egghead had the audience laughing the moment they heard that squeaky timbre- until, of course, Humpty Dumpty falls off the wall (well, you knew it would happen, and it’s funny anyway). His Mad Hatter’s rant on top of the Tea Party table was such fun I’d see it again.
Other fine moments: the Red Queen (Patrice Covington) and, as the Queen lectures Alice on what it is to be a queen, the oh so fine backup singers/dancers (Sensei Silab and Jessica Bennet. The clever, up-to the-minute choreography by Rennie Harris made me wish for more music, most of which is by current recording artists such as Milo Greene and Ruthe Berhe.
As it is, Lookingglass Alice is less a play per se than an assemblage of pieces by Lewis Caroll. Perhaps you won’t feel transported to Wonderland, but it’s a fun show for all that, with lots to look at and a current vibe that feels like downtown Baltimore City at its best.
Lookingglass Alice . Artistic Team: David Caplin, Adaptor; Jeremy B. Cohen, Director; Cast: Jessica Bennett, Ensemble; Patrice Covington, Red Queen / Dormouse / Caterpillar / Tweedle Dee; David Darrow, Cheshire Cat / Mad Hatter / Caterpillar / Humpty Dumpty; Markita Prescott, Alice; Christopher Ramirez, Dodgson / White Queen / Caterpillar / Tweedle Dum; Sensei Silab, Ensemble; Garrett Turner, White Rabbit / White Knight / Wicket / March Hare; Alicia Quirk, Stage Manager; Monica Cook, Assistant Stage Manager . Rennie Harris, Choreographer; Tim Mackabee, Scenic Designer; David Burdick, Costume Designer; Rui Rita, Lighting Designer; Lindsay Jones, Original Music, Musical Arrangements; Sound Designer, Caite Hevner; Projection Designer, Jose C. Simbulan; Music Director Mari Travis; Assistant Director and Dance Captain Rebecca Adelsheim; Production Dramaturg Pat McCorkle . Produced by Baltimore Center Stage . Reviewed by Jill Kyle-Keith.Running time 1 hours 15 minutes, no intermission
Reviewed by Jill Kyle-Keith.