In 1865, Lewis Carroll created the classic children’s tale, Alice in Wonderland, a journey into a fantasy world of kooky creatures that exhibit traits of both good and bad in their examples of human character. Norman Allen, along with Buzz Mauro, co-founder and co-executive director of The Theatre Lab, created Alix in Wonderland: A Gender Journey Down the Rabbit Hole, a world premiere musical, as part of its Summer Musical Institute for Teens program. Chalice Theatre’s production is both charming and poignant.
As the show begins, the audience is struck by the sweetness of character and lovely vocals of Emily Lachow as she lets us in on her ever-present dilemma, “Who Are You?” as Alix, “spelled with an X.” Thus begins her personal journey of self-discovery as she tumbles down the rabbit hole to meet characters that are familiar, but not quite what we remember. Lachow is both enchanting and moving in her portrayal as she draws the audience into an unbelievably believable world.
What’s interesting is that the show and its characters seems to question gender roles, but not in an obvious way. Some literary critics have analyzed Lewis Carroll’s story as representative of a child’s struggle to understand the confusing world of adults, and that Alice has to overcome the open-mindedness characteristic of children. Yet this musical seems to convey quite the opposite. Alix’s journey comes full circle as the show provides the message that perhaps no one need be defined or committed to a single definition.
Director Eddie Page provides a supportive cast with solid performances. Mac Nowalk as the White Rabbit gives the character an earnestness of heart as he pops in and out of the adventure. Charlie Boone as the excitable Mad Hatter gives an energetic performance. Melissa Dyer is appropriately creepy as the Cheshire Cat, and Ashleigh Mataya and Rob Albro as Tweedledum and Tweedledee are quite amusing. The Caterpillar, played by Brian Delp, is as cool as cool can be. An honorable mention definitely has to go to the Doormouse, played adorably by Grey Lehman. Additionally, Michelle Harris’s costume design is creative and original.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with one intermission.
Alix in Wonderland: A Gender Journey Down the Rabbit Hole runs through March 7 at Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington – 4444 Arlington Boulevard, in Arlington, VA. Tickets can be purchased online.