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BWW Reviews: Into the Rabbit Hole of ALICE LOST IN WONDERLAND at The Garden Theatre

Much darker than anything you would expect from a play based off a classic children's tale, ALICE LOST IN WONDERLAND is a psychological thriller written to bring the audience to The Edge of sanity. It is haunting, curious, and in a strange way moving. ALICE LOST IN WONDERLAND makes its World Premiere right here in Florida.

Growing up we all have (some of us still have) our imaginary friends to get us through the tough times. Jane is no exception, but rather than growing up to live a normal life she finds herself in an asylum. Inside the asylum is a cast of characters with various afflictions and a hard-nosed doctor stuck on lobotomy as a cure. Jane screams looking for Alice, which makes her look crazier. Through slightly confusing set of events, somehow Jane ends up down a hole leading to Wonderland. Many of the patients transform their afflictions to familiar characters from Alice in Wonderland. The connection between the events in the asylum and the events in Wonderland draw parallels

As an original production, ALICE LOST IN WONDERLAND is incredibly complex. Using Lewis Carroll's story as a guide, Rob Winn Anderson strikes out on his own by putting a creative spin on the known Alice tale. Dark does not even begin to describe the depth of despair he puts Jane through. At the same time, instead of feeling bad for all the characters, we find ourselves feeling hopeful as they band together. The connection between the patients and their Wonderland counterparts are seamless. It seems that this telling of the story is easier to follow logically then the literary nonsense of Carroll's version.

Some of the play is written in rhyme with different actors picking up where one left off this adds a nice effect, though creepy. There are also some memorable lines that cause the audience to laugh, but then think deeper like: "Even nonsense has sense in it." It would be interesting to read the original story again to find the elements that made it into the show. Earlier this week I interviewed Producer Beth Marshall and Rob Winn Anderson about creating an original production, check it out here.

Becky Eck plays Jane with a convincingly damaged mind. You suspect that her hurt goes beyond her desire to find Alice. She is vulnerable, yet brave; insane, yet sharp-minded. As she tells her story in pieces, the audience is left wanting to know more about how she got to the asylum and why she is there. As we learn more, Jane's story is tragic and moving. Alice (Taylor Anderson) is an interesting character. She is the antithesis of Jane with her childlike exuberance and innocence. The pair is intertwined so much that it almost seems like they are sisters.

All the cast members commit to take the audience to that dark place. Wesley Slade's Mad Hatter is terrifying because you cannot tell what he is going to do next. As the mental patient and Mad Hatter, Slade is violent and frightful.

Aside from the off-puttingly hissing fog machine, the set is utilitarian, but uses some cool effects. One scene, Jane eats the Rabbit's cookie and grows bigger as if by magic. The excessive fog lent itself well to gorgeous lighting. All these elements set the scene for a creepy, empty insane asylum.

Produced by Beth Marshall Presents, ALICE LOST IN WONDERLAND plays at The Garden Theatre in Winter Garden, Florida until November 3. For tickets and more information, visit www.gardentheatre.org.

Photo credit: Kristen Wheeler of KHPhotographics.com.



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