Monday, January 25, 2010
At Sutter Street: Return to Wonderland
Director Allen Schmeltz has made “Alice in Wonderland” a specialty. For Sutter Street Theatre’s Young People’s Series, he once again brings to life Lewis Carroll’s immortal story, “Alice in Wonderland,” in the colorful stage version by Kathryn Schultz Miller. Schmeltz has offered it twice before at Sutter Street and twice before that at Garbeau’s. Yet it never loses its magic.
It begins with Carroll (Schmeltz) indulging his avocation by taking a photograph of the real Alice, whose imaginary alter-ego becomes the immortal Alice, the child who visited Wonderland. Exhausted by posing, the real Alice in the play falls asleep and finds herself in the magic land invented by the author. Played by an irresistible eight-year-old Hannah Hurst, she finds herself surrounded by a colorful population of fantasy figures as she magically becomes bigger and smaller.
Three other actors, each playing multiple roles, round out a charming cast. A seasoned and versatile Brady Tait, winner of two Ellie Awards, becomes both the White Rabbit, supposedly responsible for leading her down the hole to Wonderland, and the maddest of Mad Hatters, he of cockeyed tea-party fame. Thanks to Connie Mockenhaupt, choreographer and assistant director, two children from the audience join the party as the March Hare and Dormouse.
Two other seasoned young actors round out the cast. A veteran of many plays and musicals, Christopher Celestin almost magically transforms himself into the Caterpillar, the Cheshire Cat, and the ferocious Queen of Hearts. Last but not least is the versatile Kerry Buehler, who acts as stage hand, the Three of Hearts, and the complex Blackbird. For the Blackbird she dons what looks like a spacesuit and manipulates a dummy bird with her left hand. Masked by tight netting, she can provide the bird’s lines without being a ventriloquist.
Veteran designer Eileen Beaver created the array of fanciful costumes that colorfully define the characters wearing them. Mike Jimena contributes an efficient set, dominated by a large central tree, suitable for the real world as well as Wonderland. A hole near the top of the trunk can frame the head of an imaginary character, holding a conversation with the fantasy Alice.
Also contributing to the creative showmanship is Colin Hoyt’s dramatic lighting. Once again, with black light, he conjures up ghostly white hands gesturing in the dark.
“Alice in Wonderland” continues through February 14 at 717 Sutter Street, Historic Folsom 95630. Performances are Saturdays at 1 and 4 p.m., Sundays at 1 p.m. Tickets are $13 to $17, with group rates available. Call 916-353-1001 or e-mail mikonpro.net.