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Alice in Wonderland – Synetic Theater

Jordan Wright
October 5, 2015
Special to The Alexandria Times

 

Kathy Gordon as Alice, Vato Tsikurishvili as Caterpillar. Photo by Johnny Shryock

Kathy Gordon as Alice, Vato Tsikurishvili as Caterpillar. Photo by Johnny Shryock

Alice is very, very, very unhappy.  She has had to surrender her favorite playthings to a recently hired cruel-hearted governess, Ms. Prickett (Renata Veberyte Loman, later seen in the role of the Queen), who eats her tarts, insists she recite poetry and insults her intelligence.  In this dark telling, and merging, of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, Director Paata Tsikurishvili takes us down the rabbit hole to a fantasy world unlike any other.  After all, this is Synetic Theater.  Did you expect a fairy tale?  Lloyd Rose’s script adaption, divided into twelve parts, keeps the madcap charm yet affords little room for niceties.

Renata Veberyte Loman as Queen of Hearts, Justin J. Bell as King with Ensemble. Photo by Johnny Shryock.

Renata Veberyte Loman as Queen of Hearts, Justin J. Bell as King with Ensemble. Photo by Johnny Shryock.

This is an upside down world this growing-up thing - fraught with danger, nonsensical creatures and twisted logic - and Alice (Kathy Gordon) intends to sort it all out and in the process teach Wonderland’s inhabitants a few lessons in commonsense.  Setting out she finds her toys have morphed into the Cheshire Cat (Alex Mills) and the White Rabbit (Tori Bertocci) who lead her into an evermore phantasmagorical dimension filled with shrouded creatures of the night who feed her cakes to change her size in order to enter a tiny portal to the realm of the Queen of Hearts.

Alex Mills as Cheshire Cat, Kathy Gordon as Alice, Tori Bertocci as White Rabbit. Photo by Johnny Shryock

Alex Mills as Cheshire Cat, Kathy Gordon as Alice, Tori Bertocci as White Rabbit. Photo by Johnny Shryock

Eventually Alice arrives at the tea party where she meets up with the Mad Hatter (Dallas Tolentino), Doormouse (Zana Gankhuyag, who graces us later as the Lobster) and the March Hare (Justin J. Bell, who does double-duty as King).  “It’s always tea time,” they riddle her pop-locking to electronika and calliope in this carnival-like atmosphere.

Dallas Tolentino as Mad Hatter, Kathy Gordon as Alice, Justin J. Bell as March Hare. Photo by Johnny Shryock

Dallas Tolentino as Mad Hatter, Kathy Gordon as Alice, Justin J. Bell as March Hare. Photo by Johnny Shryock

Costume Designer Kendra Rai does not disappoint.  Well known to Synetic fans and the Helen Hayes Awards committee (who bestowed upon her the 2015 Outstanding Costume Design Award for her work on last season’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, thus besting herself for her other two noms for Beauty and the Beast and Twelfth Night), she has outdone herself with eye-popping creations.

Zana Gankhuyag as Doormouse, Alex Mills as Cheshire Cat, Dallas Tolentino as Mad Hatter, Justin J. Bell as March Hare. Photo by Johnny Shryock.

Zana Gankhuyag as Doormouse, Alex Mills as Cheshire Cat, Dallas Tolentino as Mad Hatter, Justin J. Bell as March Hare. Photo by Johnny Shryock.

The Queen’s Guard, as you’ll recall, are playing cards that dash about looking for heads to chop off, as per Her Majesty’s whims.  But it’s Tweedle Dee (Augustin Beall) and Tweedle Dum (Thomas Beheler) as punk rockers that nearly steal the show reciting the Jabberwocky, “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe: All mimsy were the borogroves, And the mome raths outgrabe,” finishing with a high-five.  I’ll admit it is one of my favorite bits of nonsense poetry and I was totally captivated by this odd duo in leather jackets and spiky mohawks reciting Carroll’s famous 19th century verse.

Dallas Tolentino as Mad Hatter. Photo by Johnny Shryock.

Dallas Tolentino as Mad Hatter. Photo by Johnny Shryock.

Humpty Dumpty (Vato Tsikurishvili) makes a brief appearance before his precipitous fall, confounding Alice with the pronouncement, “When I use a word it means what I choose it to be.  You can’t let words have the last word.”  But it’s the Queen’s appearance at the garden party, replete with towering red pompadour and black and white patent leather dress plumped up with paniers, that truly blows our minds.  “Off with their heads!” she familiarly commands as she neatly tucks a croquet ball into a wicket.

Alex Mills as Cheshire Cat. Photo by Johnny Shryock.

Alex Mills as Cheshire Cat. Photo by Johnny Shryock.

Resident Choreographer, Irina Tsikurishvili, works her magic, filling the stage with phenomenal dancers, most especially Mills who in one scene as the Cheshire Cat toying with a mouse, undulates, contorts and twists his lithe body into unimaginable feline positions, bending in half to lick his leg and slinking on to one of Scenic Designer Daniel Pinha’s giant arcing scaffolds to avoid discovery.

Highly recommended.

Through November 8th at Synetic Theater, 1800 South Bell Street, Arlington in Crystal City.  For tickets and information call 866 811-4111 or visit www.synetictheater.org.

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