Alice in Wonderland | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Alice in Wonderland 

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Alice In Wonderland, SummerNITE, at the Theatre Building. The world's most enduring drug dream-children's tale is played out with agility and remarkable energy by SummerNITE's cast of seven. Christopher Markle's adaptation, commissioned by New York's Lincoln Center, remains faithful to Lewis Carroll's story and dialogue, thankfully maintaining the dark edge Disney diluted. On a black stage bare except for a row of modular red-lacquered platforms on wheels, against a backdrop of Magritte-style clouds, Alice (Elizabeth Hayden), Dodgson (Kris Allen), and Professors 1, 2, 3, and 4 (Noe McDonald, Dan Kuhlman, Mickey Tuman, and John Hoogenaker--who gets points for keeping a straight face while jumping up and down screaming "Eat me! Eat me!") twirl and somersault through Carroll's tunnels and forests while nimbly morphing into the Mouse, Caterpillar, Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, Tweedles Dum and Dee, the Queen, et al.

To accomplish this much using body language and a few simple props is a marvel. However, the hardworking cast deserves more design help. The stark red and black set doesn't suit Carroll's multicolored imagery, and sound bounces off the walls of this cavernous concrete space: whenever more than one person is speaking (which is often), the resulting clamor is jarring and incomprehensible. Fine-tuning the design elements and the execution of Leslie Steinweiss's original music (currently plagued with wobbles and pitch problems) would make this an exceptional adventure.

--Kim Wilson

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