Thursday, December 10, 2015

Alice! (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Lewis Carrol, history shows, was an odd man. Not as weird as maybe you've heard, but eccentric to say the least. His children's books inspired movies, artwork, ballets, t.v. shows, novels, documentaries and not a few stage plays. Like Alice, one of the latest offerings by Zombie Joe's in North Hollywood.

This isn't really Carrol's tale. Most versions aren't. Rather, it tells of the original Alice's great great great great granddaughter and namesale (Lara Fisher) whose erotic dreams of visiting Wonderland and the Looking Glass focus upon the White Knight (Jason Britt--who plays multiple roles). But he hasn't been around lately. The White Rabbit (Michael Woodruff) shows up to tell her the Queen of Hearts has been having everyone's head cut off, including Alice's beloved White Knight.

With this news, Alice's quest to kill the Queen of Hearts begins. It will be neither straightforward nor easy nor without a certain amount of sexual shenaniggans.

Central to the story is the Cheshire Cat (Jonica Patella) who's the first character we meet. Frankly, I think many are the often-quite-good actors in LA who can learn from her total selling of such a bizarre character. The second the lights come up we can feel the energy flowing from her eyes and smile. Fortunately the rest of the cast follows suit, including Gloria Galvan (the Mock Turtle, along with other parts--a standard for this show) who remains fearless as ever on stage, Daniel Palma as Humpty Dumpty (who "sells' a truly bizarre song from a top his wall) and Ellen Bienenfield as the Dormouse. Other members of the cast include Cat Cela as the Mad Hatter and Starskee Suave as the Blue Caterpillar. But I honestly think maybe Jana Wimer (director of more than one Urban Death at ZJU) as the dual role of Alice's sister (if you know about the real Alice Liddell's sister this presses a few buttons) and the utterly mad Queen of Hearts--and she was clearly having a ball doing the latter!

But what I really want to make clear is how the show captures that surreal dreamy logic of the original, not simply by including so many bits of dialogue and action, but also by the entire cast committing to each moment as it happened--even when frankly nothing makes much sense. Which, let us face it, is most of the time. Why for example such a strong reaction to the guinea pigs? I've zero idea. Her Majesty just doesn't like them, I guess. Nor is it all nonsense so much as fractured logic, a distorted world the kind we see in dreams. Of course every one starts singing a passionate song about soup! I mean--of course! Just as it would seem the Cheshire Cat would naturally be the mastermind behind Alice becoming Wonderland's Katniss Everdeen.

Sorry to say, but Alice only plays Fridays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 7pm until December 20, 2015. A mere four more performances! Shows are at ZJU, 4850 Lankershim Blvd (just south of the NoHo Sign), North Hollywood CA 91601. Tickets are $15. Get your reservations here or by calling (818) 202-4120

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