Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall

Alice Through the Looking Glass

By Suzanne Bachner
Directed by Thom Fudal
John Montgomery Theatre Co.
134 W. 26th St. Studio 1202 (627-7076)
Equity showcase (closes Nov. 15)
Review by John Chatterton

It's time more people started visiting the JMTC, as they represent the quintessence of what is good about Off-Off-Broadway: doing more with less. Such shows don't travel well, as less adventurous theatregoers like to see less done with more, all the way up to the Broadway level, where you can sometimes get less than nothing for more than you've got in your wallet, so readers are advised to catch this one before it goes where all good OOB theatre goes - to that great Black Box in the sky.

Actually, JMTC has a white box and use it very well. In this case, they projected white sunflower patterns on the walls, suggesting the psychedelic nature of Alice's trip from Disneyland back through the looking glass into the twisted world that formed her.

Only connoisseurs might get the subtle distinctions between Lewis Carroll's, Sir John Tenniell's, and Charles Dodgson's versions of Alice as seen here, but no matter: what's important is the ensemble work by a fine cast and the fluid transitions built in by ace adapter Suzanne Bachner.

Alice (Patricia Minskoff) has a horrible time of it in Disneyland, where she's always being twitted about her Anglophilia by the mice and other characters. Feeling "stuck," she escapes through the looking glass in search of her true self - and finds herself in the land of the Red and White Kings and Queens, along with a host of other Carroll personae, including Charles Dodgson (with stutter) and Lewis Carroll (without, both played by Patrick Hillan).

Many amusing or moving turns were put in by the multitudinous cast, including Jason Magnotti as the White King, Violet, and all the Oysters; Margaret Stockton as the stately White Queen; Elizabeth Anne Sullivan as a Daisy, a Goat, and the Lion - the last in perpetual battle with the Unicorn (Alex Poppe, who also played the Carpenter). Anthony Giangrande was touching as the White Knight, who obviously meant well but didn't have a clue about riding; Jay Veduccio and Judy Turkisher rounded out the White clan, as the Mad Hatter and various animals, respectively (among other roles). The Red clan included Erik Passoja as Mickey Mouse and Humpty Dumpty (the latter with an upper-crust sneer); Alysia Reiner was a seductively menacing Red Queen; hunk Corey Carthew played a multitude of roles, including a paradoxically but appropriately muscular Pudding; Wendy Rich Stetson was a bitchy Minnie, an imposing Walrus (with flippers), and a narcoleptic Dormouse; and Rebecca Hunter Lowman and John Houfe were both amusing and moving as Tweeedledum and Tweedledee.

Minskoff was by turns charming, naive, and deadly serious as Alice, as only intelligent children can be. (At the end of her journey to the eighth square to be made a queen, she receives an education from the Red Queen that puts her in a modern context; in the last scene, she has grown up as a modern woman.)

The set design (of skewed quadrilaterals, like a chessboard, by Deborah R. Rosen) and costumes (by Erik Bruce), together with many neat props and a complicated lighting plot (including color wheel), by John Tees III, made this as sophisticated a piece of minimalism as one could want. (Music Coordinator, John Kempski.)

Box Score:
Writing 2
Directing 2
Acting 2
Set 2
Costumes 2
Lighting/Sound 2

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Copyright 1997 John Chatterton