I love Lewis Carroll and his magical books Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Over the years I must have seen several evocations of these stories, and even played the White Rabbit once. Then I heard the Bootleg Theatre was doing its own adaptation with the help of the extraordinary production team of Robert Prior as playwright and director, Ken Roht as choreographer, Indira Stefanianna as composer, Teresa Shea as costume designer, Brandon Baruch as lighting designer, John Ballinger as sound designer, and most important, Lynn Jeffries as puppetmistress. Over the years I have seen or heard about projects that these artists have been involved with: Ken Roht’s 99-Cent Only Calendar Girl Competition, Teresa Shea’s Breakup Notebook, Lynn Jeffries’ Gogol Project, and various shows by the Bootleg Company.
Prior’s wildly original version has Carroll transforming into his creation Alice and going down the “rabbit hole” where he/she encounters the bizarre characters of his creation. Carroll's work has long been explored for hidden psychosexual images and meanings. (Jonathan Miller filmed a version where the actors shared in the peculiar behavior traits of the Wonderland characters.) Here, the result is a highly imaginative retelling of the stories, complete with outsized puppets and grotesque characterizations, such as the wacky Caterpillar played by Michael Bonnabel with the help of the arms of four actresses. The Red Queen is a queen indeed, complete with Madonna-like glittering breasts, and brassy voice thanks to actor Jabez Zuniga. I was also impressed with the actresses who manipulated the Cheshire Cat. Jessica Hanna lent her pretty vocal talents to the White Rabbit.
If you like your theatre a bit wild and off the wall and love beautiful costumes, imaginative staging, and brilliant puppets, Project Wonderland may be for you.
Project Wonderland plays at the Bootleg Theater until January 31st.