Alice in Wonderland

By Jeffrey T HeyerAlice3-425x640

PAPER WING THEATRE is running Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on the small Hoffman Street stage with a limited budget, an ambitious experiment for the company. It began with local-writer Mark Daniel Cunningham adapting the novel, with a few slight changes to bring the setting from Carroll’s nineteenth century to the present day. Amanda Platsis then directed a playful production which does everything a community theater presentation should do.

To whit: members of the community came not to see polished performances by professional actors but to watch people they know get up on stage and have anarchic fun with familiar characters. Sets, props and especially costumes—the latter by Cody Moore—were imaginative and extraordinarily colorful. The multi-armed and multi-legged caterpillar in particular brought appreciative laughter from the audience just by appearing.

Characterizations are simple and zany with all manner of clever creatures played by a well-coordinated mixture of children and adults. The youngsters Anne L. and Tazannah were especially cute as the hedgehogs. Kelsey Hansen-Pritchett showed us the most thoroughly realized physicality as the very feline Cheshire Cat.

Most performances are bold and energetic. Phil Livernois’ Walrus and Lj Brewer’s Carpenter split between them the speaking voice and trademark laugh of a Simpson’s character, adding a contemporary reference to their tale which was loudly appreciated by audience members. Lj Brewer is, in fact, the carpenter who shared construction and rigging responsibilities with Ron Moore, Douglas Duffy Johnson and Daniel Maroney.

Christopher Scott Sullinger, who has demonstrated considerable skill and talent in other theaters in the area, created a nice counterpart to the madness by giving amusingly understated interpretations of the Dodo and the King of Hearts. As Alice, Keira Maroney visibly enjoys being baffled and off-put by all the strange denizens of Wonderland. She is never overwhelmed or rendered colorless in comparison with the exotics surrounding her and deserves credit for such an accomplishment.

Of course the audience is a vital component of any theatrical experience and this one was an interesting mix in itself. There were people of all ages. Closer examination of one tiny pair of legs revealed them to belong to a doll sitting attentively in the seat beside her little girl owner. There was a clump of twenty-somethings whose laughter was particularly exuberant whenever they recognized a player—though how they could tell who was under all that makeup and costuming in many cases I cannot say. The rest of the audience smiled and chuckled in their own much more restrained manner, but it was evident as they filed out past the long line of performers just how much fun they had had.

A special function of this particular production was to give various children their first experience on the boards. I have no doubt that they will all remember this show fondly and perhaps go on to explore other aspects of the Wonderland that is theatre.

In short, if you want to see a blockbuster like Hamilton you need to visit San Francisco. Smaller local theatres can provide you with delicately nuanced performances, often by professional practitioners of the theatrical arts. What Paper Wing supplies is different but none the less valuable: true community theatre, where people from the community can get a taste of performance before a live audience of their peers. If watching such a show sounds fun to you, go enjoy Paper Wing’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.