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Lookingglass Alice

One of the most beloved children's stories of all time, Charles Dodgson's Through the Looking-Glass (1871), is also one of the most complicated to adapt for the stage; but the rewards are magnificent, as we see in this spectacular adaptation by director-playwright David Catlin, originated and performed by Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre Company.

Molly Brennan as Red Queen
Molly Brennan
as Red Queen
Photo: Adams Visual
Communications
Dodgson, who later wrote under the name of Lewis Carroll, created a series (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland [1865] was the prequel) of remarkable adventures, characters, and transformations for Alice Liddell and her sisters as they traveled along the Thames.

Perhaps the most famous adaptation of these tales is Walt Disney's groundbreaking animation, Alice in Wonderland (1951), which leveraged the magic of motion pictures in a new, imaginative manner. Now, in a theatrical world of ever more remarkable special effects, Catlin and company leverage Cirque du Soleil inspired gymnastics, acrobatics, and related phantasmagoria (including some send ups from Slava's Snow Show) to recreate Dodgson's imaginary fireworks.

Lauren Hirte as Alice
Lauren Hirte as Alice
Photo: Adams Visual Communications

The production is filled with unexpected thrills, as well as unique, hilarious, and poignant characters, and a multitude of thoughtful and provoking moments. The title role is shared by Lauren Hirte and Lindsey Noel Whiting. On opening night, Hirte's incredible dramatic and athletic range was breathtaking, from a precocious little girl to a gravity-defying aerial artist. This is an Alice for the ages.

Samuel Taylor as White Knight
Samuel Taylor as White Knight
Photo: Adams Visual Communications
The menagerie of persons and creatures whom Alice encounters are as fantastic, clever, and circus savvy as she is. The various progressively diminutive incarnations of the Red Queen (Molly Brennan) are outlandish, eye-popping, and, of course, embody the epitome of arrogance for which this character is famous. Brennan performs all this with aplomb, as she maneuvers around on a series of technically impressive stilts and other rigging.

Adeoye as Cheshire Cat
Adeoye as Cheshire Cat
Photo: Adams Visual Communications
The Cheshire Cat (Adeoye) is one lithe, strong, and comically broad feline. The Mad Hatter (Kevin Douglas) is a zanni of the the highest order, pulling an impossibly large series of oversized tea party related objects and beings out of a picnic basket, while dancing riddle-filled circles around the stage and the minds of Alice and the audience. The White Knight (Samuel Taylor) is a total crack-up, sending Alice into unplanned paroxysms of laughter with his improvisational remarks and shtick.

Kevin Douglas as White Rabbit
Kevin Douglas
as White Rabbit
Photo: Adams Visual
Communications
Every aspect of the production is epic, from the hyperbolic costumes and moody lighting to the trenchant sound effects. Adults and children alike are in for a treat!

The Denver Center Theatre Company's presentation of Lookingglass Theatre Company's production of Lookingglass Alice runs through October 11th. For tickets: 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org.

Bob Bows

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