Alice proves what we already guessed: Evanston is Wonderland | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Alice proves what we already guessed: Evanston is Wonderland 

Things get curiouser and curiouser during this roaming production.

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Jenn-Anne Gledhill

First curated by Upended Productions artistic director Noelle Krim in 2004 during her time with the Neo-Futurists, this magical ambulatory experience is back. Audience members, in groups of 15, are Alice, following a harried white rabbit (a boisterous Caitlin Savage on my tour) throughout Wonderland—otherwise known as Evanston's Main-Dempster Mile neighborhood. Be forewarned, there's quite a bit of walking and stair-climbing involved in this 90-minute production, but your rabbit guide uses a buddy system to ensure nobody gets left behind. A variety of local theater companies, artists, and musicians stage chapters from Alice in Wonderland in a variety of settings, ranging from a train station to a dreamy plant shop. With impressive attention to detail, Upended enlisted the folk group the Bills to add whimsical street ambieence as Alice hustles from place to place.

One of the funniest vignettes along the way is Josh Zagoren as Chad the Bird, a disgruntled puppet educating Alice on the many species on the planet besides humans and why we're really not that great. He shares some amusing complaints specific to the brewery-basement setting about developing beer for animals with a high alcohol tolerance, like bats. Waiting in tiny chairs at a huge table for a tea party to begin, the audience later lifts the tablecloth to discover that all the imaginative action is happening underneath, carried out with pathos by tea-serving members of the ShowParty performance collective. By bringing together such a diverse group of performers and embracing their individuality, Alice continues to deliver "curiouser and curiouser" delights.   v

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More by Marissa Oberlander

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