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Swimming against a theatrical sea-tide of the tried and true comes a burst of originality out at the Sonoma Community Center. The Sonoma Theatre Alliance is presenting Narrow Way Stage Company’s production of “Alice – The Rebellion of Wonderland”, with an original script by Sonoma’s own Tony Ginesi and direction by Nick Christenson.
Based on characters from the Lewis Carrol classic, Ginesi’s script explores what might happen if the residents of Wonderland banded together under the leadership of Alice to take on the foul-tempered Queen of Hearts. It seems she maintains control of the populace by have her flunkies abscond with each resident’s favorite item.
The play begins with Alice (Tessa Hope Morgan) being thrown in a jail cell being guarded by the White Knight (Mark Stanley) where she is soon joined by Tweedle Dum and Dee (Alexis Long), The Mad Hatter (Ted Smith) ,and the Marx (as in Karl) Hare. After a quick escape, the adventure begins as they run into the Caterpillar (Cat Bish)and Humpty Dumpty (Michael Hunter) and seek to retrieve the stolen items while avoiding the Queen’s ‘hench-things’ the Crow (Matthew Witthaus) and the Guard (Bill Garcia). Other characters along the way are presented via puppetry, including the Cheshire Cat (Siobhan O’Reilly and Bill Garcia) and a constantly amusing dormouse (Samantha Lane). The infamous Jabberwocky (Paul McKinnon) makes an appearance as well.
“Alice…” is one of the most visually inventive pieces of theatre I’ve seen in a while. Writer Ginesi also did the Set, Sound and Lighting design and his expertise in these areas is on full display. I would have been content to sit in the auditorium for two hours and just watch the lights. Thankfully, that level of creativity was exhibited throughout this production. This can also be said for the costume designs by Breen Bruder. Pictures can’t do justice to the colors, textures, and layers draped around the performers.
As for the performers, director Christenson has let his actors’ imaginations run wild. Long’s conflicted twins, Starr’s radical hare with an indeterminable accent, Smith’s jocular chapelier, Stanley’s stately but ineffectual guard, Hunter’s measured egg, Bish’s single-minded caterpillar with limited dialogue and attitude to spare and Witthaus’s villainous crow are all products of an imaginative team of talented performers. Collectively they and the rest of the cast bring vibrancy to their characters that matches the costumes and lighting.
Well… for the most part. The one weak link in this colorful chain was Ms. Morgan’s Alice. Alice can be played many ways, but Morgan’s Alice came across as a bored and unemotional girl who possessed a lack of inquisitiveness and curiosity that is the antithesis of any reasonable interpretation of the character. It felt odd to have a character that was so, frankly, dull surrounded by all the vivacity. Ginesi’s script requires Alice to be the central figure to whom the residents of Wonderland rally and from whom they take inspiration, and Morgan’s characterization provided none of that. But Ginesi, Christensen and the cast provide so much more for the eyes and the ears (and the mind) to process that in the long run it ends up being a noticeable – but by no means fatal – distraction.
With just this weekend’s shows to go, consider taking a trip to Wonderland via Napa Street in Sonoma. Come enjoy some local talents’ imaginations running wild, and you just might find yours doing the same.
“Alice – The Rebellion in Wonderland”
Presented by the Narrow Way Stage Company in Association with Sonoma Theatre Alliance
through August 24
Fri, Sat @ 8pm, Sun @ 2pm
Sonoma Community Center
276 E Napa St
Sonoma, CA 95476
(707) 938-4626 ext 1
Photos by Al Christenson