God knows how many times Alice in Wonderland has been spoofed and reinterpreted in movies, plays and TV shows, but the American Repertory Theater took another stab at it with Alice vs. Wonderland (running until October 9 at the Loeb Drama Center in Harvard Square) – and succeeded in turning the trite into the provocatively original.
The maniacal, dominatrix-like Queen of Hearts belts out a show-tunesy version of “Poker Face,” and a hapless Alice takes on Radiohead’s “Creep.” Like I said, original.
This wonderland is at once menacing and whimsically fashionable. It’s dark and smoky, with eerily lit faces and strobe light. Long benches and strings radiate out from a door upstage to create the illusion of a tunnel. But the cast is decked out in tutu skirts, headdresses, spike heeled boots, a purple furry pimp coat, and one pair of lime green hot pants. Basically, it’s a Lady Gaga video – slightly terrifying but somehow still cool.
There are six different actresses who play Alice in this modernized version of the classic Lewis Carroll tale, and the transition between them is seamless throughout- each carries a skateboard and a Macbook. As the Alices journey through a very hostile wonderland, the play explores the concepts of self identity, conformity and sanity. Starkly funny writing and sharp choreography move the show along and balance out the more cerebral themes of the story.
But the characters are what make Alice vs. Wonderland a quality night of theater. Although the Alice character gets a little dull (there are only so many versions of “I need help! I need to get out of here! I don’t know who I am!” before it gets irritating), the locals of wonderland are gloriously unhinged. The Caterpillar, for instance, is portrayed by two guys back-to-back in one big pair of stretchy black pants who bend and twist over and around each other while delivering deadpan enigmas and miming smoking a joint.
Alice vs. Wonderland is a great chance to see what A.R.T. is all about – offbeat scripts, fantastic local actors, and accessible stories. It’s a gem in the Boston theater scene and definitely worth a trip across the river, and down the rabbit hole.
For more information and to buy tickets, click here. Tickets are $25 for students.