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Arts & Culture

Dark, disturbing ‘Alice Lost in Wonderland’ is remarkable

New Beth Marshall production transforms both the original text and the Garden Theatre

Photo: Photos By khphotographics.com, License: N/A

Photos By khphotographics.com

Photo: , License: N/A

As a playwright, Anderson does an admirable job of emulating Dodgsonian doublespeak, making it difficult to distinguish his dense doggerel from excerpts of the original, and the psychiatric subject matter (exhaustively researched by dramaturge Brenna Nicely) is a smart match for Carroll’s surreal scenarios. The show’s start is arresting, with dreamlike direction that borders on modern dance, and Anderson makes efficient use throughout of hidden surprises in his unitary set.

Unfortunately, momentum sags after the opening as the framing story – which recalls Sucker Punch without the sex or swords – is extensively established before Jane discovers Wonderland; many scenes drag along and end episodically with little organic connection to the next incident. (Understandable, since every adaptation – including Walt’s – faces the same struggle with the disjointed source material.) Act One is overlong with an arbitrarily located intermission, while the second half has tonal balance issues, awkwardly veering from intense tragedy to slapstick silliness too abruptly for me to adequately experience either emotion.

Marshall and Anderson began working on this show from scratch barely six months ago; the initial draft was written in about two weeks, and the 25th rewrite was handed to the actors only days before technical rehearsals. That’s impressively fast, but I feel the script would benefit from a little more baking, or at least a sharp scalpel. Even so, this is ambitious work with enormous potential, and I hope it encourages the Garden Theatre to continue offering edgier options worth the drive from Orlando.

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