A Noise Within has long championed rarely produced classics of yore, and in producing Eva LaGalliene’s version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the classical repertory theatre has uncovered a dazzling replica of bygone Broadway. The script, co-written in collaboration with Florida Friebus (who originally played the Cheshire Cat), hops along from nugget to golden nugget, telling Alice’s story, as nostalgic, entertaining, and familiar to everyone, whether veterans of Disney or (Heavens!) having read the book.
I queried several children in the audience, who assured me that the play was every bit as engaging as the Disney version they grew up watching on their televisions sets. And no wonder! Director Stephanie Shroyer devised inventive ways to play with perspective (remember “one pill makes you smaller”?) and reimagine the denizens of the chess board in Act Two’s Looking Glass segment.
My favorite image from this production involves Caterpillar drowsing on his toadstool, sharing a hookah with his fellows. I realized that I’d never quite understood the source of Lewis Carroll’s imagination as vividly.
For instance, in Act Two, Carroll’s inventiveness becomes less surrealistic and more analytical as Alice makes eight moves on the chess board to become Queen. This second part introduces more familiar figures, songs, and dances to round out Alice’s adventures.
Erika Soto makes a perfect wonderstruck Alice, while A Noise Within’s excellent ensemble of veteran actors, particularly resident artists, Susan Angelo, Rafael Goldstein, and Kasey Mahaffy, rapidly transform into each character.
ANW’s roster of designers are responsible for the resourceful world of Wonderland. They have recreated the familiar tones of Alice book illustrations, against the backdrop of Frederica Nascimento’s ever-restless series of slides and panels, helped along by Ken Booth’s lighting and Josh Grondin’s whimsical music as well as Dillon Nelson’s panoply of costumes, Erin Walley’s props (loved the Flamingo croquet mallets!) and Angela Santori’s transformative wigs and make-up.
But, alas! I’ve saved the bad news for last. Due to the Corona Virus scare, theaters over 50 seats were ordered to close. A Noise Within took the careful step to postpone both Alice in Wonderland and The Winter’s Tale until a later date; but at this time, their production of Sweeney Todd is still scheduled to open as planned on May 10th.
A Noise Within is located at 3352 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena 91107. Check the website for updates about ANW’s season. Phone (626) 356-3121 or online at www.anoisewithin.org.