CHICAGOâ€”The Lookingglass Theatre is staging its dazzling production of â€śLookingglass Aliceâ€ť for the third time, and for the
second consecutive summer. The theater should be mandated to bring this show to
summer, establishing a warm weather tradition in the manner of winterâ€™s â€śA
Christmas Carol.â€ť That presumes that the company can retain its extraordinary
five-performer ensemble with its inexhaustible energy and astonishing bag of
The show, of course, is the
Lookingglass spin on Lewis Carrollâ€™s â€śAliceâ€™s
Adventures in Wonderlandâ€ť in an interpretation that Carroll likely would not
recognize but would heartily endorse. The show captures Carrollâ€™s whimsy and
includes a considerable helping of his original text. Lookingglass also offers
acrobatics and other theatrical embellishments that make the production so
entertaining, and sometimes startling.
The Lookingglass production runs
about 100 minutes without an intermission, opening with a stunning visual
surprise I wonâ€™t spoil by describing. Let it suffice that the show is worth
seeing twice for that opening moment, one time sitting in rows beginning with A
and another time in rows beginning with E.
The story loosely follows the
adventures of 7 year old Alice
as she tumbles down that magical rabbit hole into the wonderland of the
Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the White Knight, the Red Queen, Humpty Dumpty,
and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Alice
adapts to her dreamlike journey quickly enough to immediately decide that she
wants to become a queen. The narrative then charts the girlâ€™s progress from
chessboard square to square on her way to her royal coronation.
But the story is secondary at
Lookingglass to the staging by adapter-director David Caitlin and carried out
by his quintet of athletic and inventive players. Which brings us to Lauren
Hirte, the Alice
in the original 2005 production and its two summer revivals. Hirte can act,
draw gasps from the audience for her prowess and grace on various trapezes, and
even play a decent clarinet. Hirte captures Aliceâ€™s little girl charm and determination
and the production would be unthinkable without her.
Hirteâ€™s four colleagues play
multiple roles, wear multiple costumes, and perform with unflagging stamina and
enthusiasm. Laurence DiStasi starts off as a wistful and melancholy Lewis
Carroll and steals all the scenes as the White Knight cavorting perilously on a
bicycle and unicycle. We first see Jesse Perez as a giant and very red Red
Queen. Later he joins Anthony Fleming III as the hip-hop jiving Tweedle Dee and
Douglas rounds out the Fab Five cast as the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, and
other sundry roles. And there are the stagehands who enter the action from time
to time, injecting modern realism into the evening and thereby enhancing the
surrealistic flavor of the action.
The wondrous visual moments include
a wicket basket that spouts a dozen metal folding chairs, Humpty Dumpty
plummeting from a ladder through an open trap door, and each time Hirte ascends
from the ground for one of her aerialist exhibitions (with no safety net or
safety cable in sight).
I thought this yearâ€™s edition was
more raucous and busier than the first two, but that was fine with the
bumptious and predominantly teenage capacity audience. Iâ€™m not sure the
youthful spectators followed Carrollâ€™s nonsense poems or Aliceâ€™s symbolic march through the chess
squares, but they laughed and applauded all the gymnastics and comic bits,
which dominated the evening.
The technical credits remain
exceptional, led by Mara Blumenfeldâ€™s wardrobe of exotic and witty fantasy
costumes, and Chris Binderâ€™s dramatic, occasionally blinding, lighting design.
Dan Ostling designed the scenery and Andre Pluess and Ray Nardelli the sound.
â€śLookingglass Aliceâ€ť runs through
August 31 at the Lookingglass Theatre, 821 North Michigan Avenue inside the
Water Tower Water Works. Performances are Wednesday and Friday at 7:30 p.m.,
Thursday and Saturday at 3 and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $30
to $58. Call 312 337 0665. For more information, visit
Click here to purchase tickets to Lookinglass Alice online or call 312.37.0665.
Copyright Â© 2008 Copley News Service