The Greenbelt Arts Center presentation of Alice in Wonderland is daring, artistic, and non-stop theatre. The production leaps into avant-garde like Alice down a rabbit hole. All of the characters, except Alice change into other characters throughout the 75 minute production. Add a psychedelic touch, numerous set changes and characters coming and going – and you have director’s Betsy Marks Delaney’s hare-raising new version.
The play starts off just as Jefferson Airplane’s song “White Room” ends, and is a perfect touch to set the scene for the evening. The simple stage design done by Delaney is well done with a black and white chess board floor, and a table. At times, the director depends on her talented cast to pantomime and act out several props. Ryan Willis becomes the doors, and Alice (Liz Cassedy) reaches back to pick up a make believe key or glass from a human table. Frankly, I think just using a simple glass or a real key would have added more to the play and the young members of the audience – who know the story – would have related better to the production.
Liz Cassedy does a terrific job as a playful, fun and captivating Alice. Her shape-changing scenes early in the play were extremely entertaining. Her non-verbal acting skills -especially her facial expressions – added to her energetic performance and complemented her character very well. Ryan Willis is outstanding as the manic Mad Hatter. His chemistry and interactions with Liz were loved by the audience. I enjoyed the table scene where the Mad Hatter and Alice argued about time. Willis also slipped into other characters seamlessly – like playing the mouse, where he completely changed his voice to suit each character he played.
Ronda Anstead is charming as the grinning Cheshire Cat. She is also comical as the Red Queen when she is ‘offing’ heads with her inflatable mallet. Kathleen Mil, Susanne Bard, and David Richman’s performances were also wonderful and I was very impressed by the human mushroom they created, the entertaining bird race, the croquet game, and the sheer madness of the beheading scenes.
This Alice in Wonderland is a fun time. It’s advertised as, “This exuberant, funny version of Lewis Carroll’s classic is NOT the Disney-fied version. It IS a piece of pure theatre that is full of truth, fun, terror, and uncanny pertinence to our own topsy-turvy times.” It isn’t terrifying. Most kids would miss the drug reference or minimize the mushroom eating as part of the story. The only thing that stood out to me was the naked woman drawn into the drawing of the teapot on the table. My young daughter missed it and maybe most did too. Minus the drawing – the play could be advertised for families and perhaps draw more young theatre goers.
The production puts art first and story second. Some parts of the story, like Alice falling through the rabbit hole is easy to follow, but other scenes are not and require the audience to pay attention
Come out to the Greenbelt Arts Center and enjoy as 75 minute adventure with Alice, the Mad Hatter, and the rest of the gang down the Rabbit Hole. My daughter really liked it! Kudos to Betsy Marks Delaney for directing this creative daring Manhattan Project production.
Running time: 75 minutes, with no intermission.
Alice in Wonderland plays through December 3, 2011, at the Greenbelt Arts Center – 123 Centerway, in Greenbelt, MD. Buy tickets online. To make a reservation, call (301) 441-8770.