It’s the top of the show, and young Alice comes on stage. She settles in a large armchair with her cat – portrayed by a stuffed animal. The cat clearly got caught in a ball of yarn. As Alice untangles her friend, she speaks of imagination and the dream of becoming a queen. While talking, she begins to yawn, and slowly dozes off in the chair.
We begin to hear another voice – subtle at first. A man is calling out Alice’s name. She wakes up and searches around for the source. She looks in the mirror above the mantle and gasps. Rather than her reflection, we see that of a man – the face of Charles Dodgson, or as others may know him, original author of the story, Lewis Caroll. As she reaches in, we hear a shatter, and the black curtain lining the stage comes crashing down.
Suddenly, we are no longer looking at an old-style living room. Instead, audience members on one side of the stage are looking in the eyes of a whole bank of audience members on the other side – hidden previously by a black curtain that crossed the middle of the room. Alice just fell through the looking glass, and she took us all with her on the journey to a whole new world.
Lookingglass Theatre Presents LOOKINGGLASS ALICE
After a seven-year hiatus, Lookingglass Theatre’s famous piece returns to the stage – newly imagined by Ensemble Member David Catlin. When Alice (Lindsey Noel Whiting) falls through the looking glass, she has one goal: to become queen. She begins a larger-than-life chess match to make it to the other side – where a pawn can be crowned. As she makes her way to each square, we meet many familiar favorites including Cheshire Cat (at this performance understudied by Ryan Huemmer), White Knight (Samuel Taylor), White Rabbit (Michel Rodriguez Cinta), and Red Queen (Kareem Bandealy).
Not only does the ensemble play multiple roles throughout, but every performer also accomplishes impressive gymnastic feats -- aerials, tumbling, stilts, and unicycling. We are in a world of never-ending imagination, inviting us to wonder what amazing event will take place next.
Filled with Surprises
Every ounce of space in the theater – even spaces we might not even imagine possible—is utilized.
When Teatime arrives in the performance, we at first see nothing but a picnic basket. Alice opens the picnic basket, revealing a kettle and picnic blanket, and invites an audience member to sit down to tea with her.
As Alice’s tea unfolds with the audience member, we see the top of the picnic basket move. A pause, then it moves slightly more. After a few more tries, the basket opens wide to reveal Mad Hatter and March Hare – hopping out of the basket as if by magic. As the music swells, we see chairs pop out of the basket one by one, and the Mad Hatter (Bandealy) and March Hare (Huemmer) set out to set up for their own Tea Party. Just when you might think nothing else can possibly come through the picnic basket, the Doormouse (Cinta) climbs up. True to his character, he sets down to take a nap in the middle of the action. Bandealy and Huemmer fill the stage with absolute chaos – dancing about and spewing nonsense as they set up for the larger-than-life tea party. Chairs continue to jump out of the basket, and you never quite know when it will end. Audience members at this performance added to the soundscape with their own verbal excitement, and once the party was finally set, erupted in enormous applause.
If you are familiar with the story, you may have expected the tea party to hit the stage at some point during the performance. However, Caitlin’s production turned the expected scene on its head, in this reviewer’s opinion, filling the space with wonder and an excited curiosity of what might come next.
Full of magic, wonder, and stellar performances, Lookingglass Alice is a night to remember for the whole family.
821 N. Michigan Avenue
Running through July 31, 2022
Wednesdays at 7:00pm
Thursdays at 1:30pm and 7:00pm
Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 2:00pm and 7:30pm
Sundays at 2:00pm and 7:30pm
About the Author: Lauren Katz
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.
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