BWW Reviews: LOBSTER ALICE - Salvatore Dali and Walt Disney at Convergence-Continuum
(Member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle)
Walt Disney was an animator, cartoonist, producer, director, screenwriter, and the voice of Mickey Mouse. He won 22 Academy Awards. It is ironic that for a man noted for producing some of the most beloved and lovable visual characters, he was emotionally conservative, not often drawing attention to himself.
Salvador Dali was an egotistical surrealist Spanish painter, who was noted for his bizarre and striking art images. His best-known piece was "The Persistence of Memory," a melting clock. He "loved everything that was gilded and excessive." He wore bizarre oriental clothing and colorful scarves. He loved to draw attention to himself, and freely expressed his views.
Ironically, Disney and Dali, formed a partnership when, in 1946, the former hired the latter to be the creative consultant on Disney's "Alice in Wonderland."
Kira Obolensky's "Lobster Alice," which is now in production at convergence-continuum, is a historification of Dali's involvement in the Alice project and the very short film that resulted from his "Hollywood adventure."
The story centers on John Finch, an uptight, pedestrian Disney animator and his secretary/assistant, Alice Horowitz. He is working on the "Alice in Wonderland" project and has a crush on his secretary. She, much like the wonderland lass, is blonde and curious.
Enter Dali, out goes routine. Enter Dali, the whole world turns upside down, including Alice falling down a hole. In this case, it's a hole in the sofa in the Disney studio office. (Hey, remember, this is a fantasy.)
The buttoned-down Finch has been assigned to oversee Dali's animating the song, "Destino" in hopes of creating another "Fantasia." Weekly, Monday meetings are planned. But Dali isn't one for sticking to a project, following rules, or letting Finch and Alice lead their previous ordered existence. Yes, Dali believes that "anything is possible in painting and in life," and turns into the Mad Hatter who stirs the simmering dreams of Finch and Alice.
Obolensky's surreal script isn't extremely well written, but it does have enough bizarre lines and situations to hold the audience's attention. There are lots of mind-bending visual effects, some confounding uses of lobsters, a couch which acts as Alice's hole to wonderland, a green and yellow "Caterpillar," a cleaning man, Alice's former boyfriend, and, of course, Salvador Dali.
Sarah Maria Hess, she of blond curls, a blue "ALICE IN WONDERLAND" dress, Betty Boop cutesy voice, and saucer blue eyes, makes for a delightful Alice Horowitz.
Tom Coles is properly uptight as John Finch. Though the writing causes him to overplay a naïve twit, he carries off the characterization well.
Grey Cross is hysterical as Dali. Complete with the famous "Dali waxed mustache," he looks like the great surrealist. He walks, swishes, sashays and controls the stage with a bigger than life portrayal. Without Cross, the play would have gone down the hole and never come back.
Beau Reinker plays multi-roles, including a Caterpillar, with a nice touch of irony.
Director Clyde Simon keeps the action humming right along.
Capsule Judgement: "Lobster Alice" is not a great play, but con-con gives it a surrealist production which should delight the theatre's niche audience. If you want an evening of the unexpected and irrational, this could be your thing.
"Lobster Alice" runs through April 5, 2014 at 8 pm Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at convergence-continuum's artistic home, The Liminis, at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood. For information and reservations call 216-687-0074.
Con-con's next show is the Cleveland premiere of "Swimming in the Shallow" by Adam Bock, which runs from May 2 through the 24th.