What's the tea, Lookingglass Alice?

Sat. May 21, 2022 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn

Lookingglass Theatre Company returns to the stage chronicling a classic story while using a creative voice with a strong united cast. Ticketholders will be astounded and surprised by what the team has put together in the current Lookingglass Alice show. 

Make sure you visit the bathroom ahead of the 90-minute presentation with no intermission because the cast uses almost the entirety of the massive theater space while performing acrobatic tricks on swings, running up and down the aisles on all sides and sometimes sitting next to the audience members in vacant seats. No one is safe from the possible antics that these trained professionals use throughout this imaginative piece of circus-inspired work. 

The performers display strong flamboyant confidence that makes up for a tale that has been told too often. This could have been another boring rendition of Alice lost in Wonderland, but instead, viewers are treated to a fresh, visually stunning portrait of Alice that rarely slows down with its frenetic pace. 

Loosely based on the 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, this theater troupe turns the original upside down and shakes the cobwebs off of it. After stepping through a mirror into another world our heroine Alice battles the Red Queen while trying to earn her own throne and rightful place in the world. 

Molly Hernandez played Alice the night this was reviewed and Micah Figueroa filled in for the White Knight role as an understudy. Hernandez had fun with the audience by using the tactic of casually speaking directly to them and breaking the fourth wall in certain sections of the play. I interviewed Figueroa for Windy City Times back in 2017 about Lookingglass Theatre Companies' production of Moby Dick where we discussed his bisexuality and strong acrobatic background. He did an excellent job playing several parts while making them his own with ease. 

Ensemble-member Kareem Bandealy chewed up the scenery and dialogue as the Red Queen on stilts. His energy crashed though while performing his Humpty Dumpty duties. That section dragged to a standstill as opposed to his drag scenes as the queen. Lining up the eggs along the path didn't have much of a payoff either and seemed a strange artsy choice. These are minor quibbles in what is surely one of the visually best theater arrangements ever to run in Chicago. Lookingglass Alice truly has something to entertain almost any age and mouths will drop behind their masks at some of the more dynamic stunts worked into the text.    

Adeoye had a ball playing the iconic Cheshire Cat as a muscled cat burglar. He spins a yarn during his outlandish spiels that roam into the gibberish territory and work well from the text. Michel Rodriguez Cintra was born to be a clown and hams it up while playing several characters. The Caterpillar combination was completely mesmerizing to watch and the sounds that came out of the cast also hypnotized me. The actors add Spanish dialogue throughout the lines to make it more inclusive while having fun with the source material. This generates a sense of spontaneousness that still rings true to Carroll's fantastical original work. His ghost must be happy to see this group keep his whimsical spirit alive in 2022. 

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