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Molly Brennen as the Red Queen, Lindsey Noel Whiting as Alice.  Photo: Ken Huth
Molly Brennen as the Red Queen, Lindsey Noel Whiting as Alice. Photo: Ken Huth

Theatre Review: "Lookingglass Alice" at Syracuse Stage

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Lookingglass Alice runs at Syracuse Stage through March 14. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at the opening night and has this review.

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Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

A sure cure for the winter blahs is the magical production of LOOKINGGLASS ALICE now playing at Syracuse Stage.  Written and directed by David Catlin who adapted it from Lewis Carroll's well-known stories, it charts the progression of Alice from pawn to Queen.  There's a fascinating piece by the playwright in Syracuse Stage's always-excellent program discussing his take on the books.

Essentially, he's structured the material as Alice's growth from child to maturity.  As she reaches each new square on the chess board, there's a scene from one of the books.  All the familiar characters show up - the Red Queen, Cheshire Cat, White Knight, Mad Hatter and more, plus a very cleverly portrayed caterpillar.

The five-member cast is truly extraordinary.  Lindsey Noel Whiting plays Alice, while Molly Brennen, Anthony Fleming III, Doug Hara and Samuel Taylor play everyone and everything else.  Not only are they all believable actors, they're also accomplished acrobats and gymnasts.

Some of my favorite moments are waking up the sleepy Doormouse, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee's dance with Alice, the Mad Hatter's tumbling, the Cat's flying entrance, the White Knight's unicycle - I could go on, but you get the idea.  Perhaps the high point is Alice on the ropes without a net.

Daniel Ostling's set is terrific and provides for fun onstage seating.  The costumes by Mara Blumenfeld are very clever, especially the Red Queen's spectacular outfit.  Christine Binder's lighting and Ray Nardelli's sound are both excellent and I enjoyed the original music by Andre Pluess and Ben Sussman.  There's a heart-stopping stunt with a ladder that shows how much these actors trust their riggers.

Choreographer Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi has contributed a great deal to Director Catlin's staging.  It's wonderful how the circus elements are never superimposed but become part of the story, such as setting up the chairs for the tea party.  Mr. Catlin's staging also allows for interaction with the audience that seems totally organic.  Either he or the actors have even added a subtle reference to curling.  None of this interferes with the creation of believable, if fanciful, characters.

To quote the playwright, "He [Lewis Carroll] celebrated nonsense and chaos and I think that nonsense and chaos are part of our humanity.  The irrational impulse is part of who we are."  Let me add, what could possibly be bad about bungee cord acrobatics and giant balloons batted into the audience?

On a scale of one to five the Lookingglass Theatre Company in association with the Actor's Gymnasium's production of LOOKINGGLASS ALICE presented by Syracuse Stage gets five oranges and a juggler.  For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.

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