2017-05-19 / On The Town

Nonsense reigns in lively production

Play Review /// ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Colorful props, costumes make a Wonderland
By Cary Ginell


CURIOUS AND CURIOUSER—Queen of Hearts (Ariel McIntyre) makes sure Alice (Brittany Dakoske) knows who’s in charge, in the show playing through Sunday at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts in Thousand Oaks. 
Courtesy of Paul Kranmer CURIOUS AND CURIOUSER—Queen of Hearts (Ariel McIntyre) makes sure Alice (Brittany Dakoske) knows who’s in charge, in the show playing through Sunday at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts in Thousand Oaks. Courtesy of Paul Kranmer Children’s literature has always been ripe for adaptation to the stage. Play versions of classic books such as “The Wizard of Oz” have proved popular for more than a century.

Also in this category is Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” which is being presented through Sunday in a lively production by the Young Artists Ensemble at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts.

The version YAE used is Anne Coulter Martens’ adaptation, which was first published in 1965 and includes a bit of “Through the Looking Glass.”

This edition has been used time and time again because it incorporates most of the major characters in Carroll’s original story in a version that is a great introduction for smaller children due to its quick pacing, removal of some of the darker elements and its 90-minute running time.

The story doesn’t waste time getting to Wonderland. There is no looking glass, no drink or cake that enlarges or reduces Alice’s size, and no setup in the first chapter that shows how bored Alice is before she gives chase to the mysterious white rabbit.

The story opens as she tumbles head over heels into the strange new world, where she immediately meets the Cheshire Cat, who doesn’t appear in the novel until Chapter 6. In the original story, the cat makes a few brief appearances, but in Martens’ version, the cat becomes Alice’s best friend, whom she calls for whenever she is in trouble.

Brittany Dakoske plays Alice, prim and pretty in a blue dress. Jaden Levinson is the constantly grinning Cheshire (pronounced here cheh-SHY-ur) Cat, who seems to know more than she is letting on.

Although these two are the major players in the story, there are really no minor characters; each is given prominence in the scenes in which Alice encounters them on her journey to find a way to get back home.

The key to her quest is literally that—a key given to her by the Cheshire Cat that opens a door that will send her on her way home.

But which door is it?

The White Rabbit (Kyle Lobenhofer) is no help, and neither is the teetering Humpty Dumpty (Samantha J. Green), who feels “on edge” as he balances on a brick wall.

Ariel McIntyre is great as the imperious Queen of Hearts, resplendent in a bright red gown with black and white checks.

Sam Barton plays the giggling Mad Hatter, with an outsize top hat and lisping voice patterned after Ed Wynn’s indelible characterization in Disney’s animated film version of the story.

Sabrina A. Boggs and Ramona Dalgarn are endearing as Tweedledee and Tweedledum as they act out “The Walrus and the Carpenter” dueling with kitchen spatulas.

Other mainstay characters who appear include the March Hare (Charlotte Green), the Dormouse (Amelia Daisa), the King of Hearts (Micah Meyers), the Gryphon (Wyatt Eaton) and the Mock Turtle (Peyton Pugh).

Mark Andrew Reyes’ enchanting set design includes colorful, off-kilter playing cards, outsize mushrooms and bright red squares on the floor, with many of the costumes and set pieces illuminated with black light.

Costume designer Bianca Jansen came up with the adorable costumes, the most delightful of which was that of the Caterpillar, played by Leilani Toone, who had eight hands that moved simultaneously, with the help of nearly invisible wires that worked like marionette strings.

Laura Mason, who recalled playing the Two of Clubs in a production of “Alice” when she was 5 years old, directed YAE’s performance with ample help from assistant director Aurora Persichetti, who also designed the makeup and props.

The show continues May 19 to 21. For tickets, visit www.yaeonline.com.

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