Lookingglass Theatre Company’s signature LOOKINGGLASS ALICE has returned to Water Tower Water Works—and it’s just as whimsical and delightful as I remember it when I first saw the production back in high school. Director David Catlin’s charming and inventive adaptation combines storytelling elements from Lewis Carroll’s ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS. The production’s partnership with The Actors Gymnasium has also cemented Lookingglass Theatre Company’s unique combination of literary adaptation and impressive aerial artistry. LOOKINGGLASS ALICE not only calls for a talented company of actors but also places considerable physical demands upon its ensemble.
That precise combination is what makes LOOKINGGLASS ALICE such a treat. The production remains a wonderful way to introduce young audience members to live theater, but I was just as awestruck by its particular brand of stage magic. The design mirrors the creativity and the whimsy of the text. Daniel S. Ostling’s set, Mara Blumenfeld’s extremely charming costume designs, Christine A. Binder’s lighting, Ray Nardelli’s sound design, and Sylvia Hernandez-DiStasi’s movement design all work together to create beautiful visual tableaus and consistent sources of enchantment throughout the show.
The ensemble gamely meets the intense demands of this production. Lindsey Noel Whiting (who alternates with Molly Hernández) is endlessly charming as the titular Alice. Whiting plays the role with necessary wide-eyed curiosity, but she makes it genuine. She’s also a talented aerial artist, performing a hoop act, a rope act, and a bungee jumping act over the course of the show (as well as balancing fellow ensemble member Samuel Taylor on her shoulders at one point). Taylor is likewise affable in the dual roles of the White Knight and Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll). His comedic timing is so finely honed that he caused Whiting to break at several points during the show I saw; because wonderment and surprise are the hallmarks of LOOKINGGLASS ALICE, the result was entirely pure and felt like an extension of the show’s aesthetic. Adeoye deftly takes on the role of the Cheshire Cat and also performs some immense physical feats. Michel Rodriguez Cintra is playful and convincingly frantic as the White Rabbit. Kareem Bandealy leans into the larger-than-life qualities of the Red Queen. While Alice may be the title character, the actors come together to make this a real ensemble piece; each has their moments to shine, but the text also calls upon them to work together.
It’s clear why LOOKINGGLASS ALICE has become a hallmark for the theater company. The show is endlessly creative, entertaining, and truly unique. It reminds audiences to maintain a sense of childlike curiosity, and like Alice, that we sometimes must forge ahead on the path even when the ending remains to be seen. The ensemble for this particular LOOKINGGLASS ALICE also brings out the surprises of the production anew, and all the actors are spectacularly cast.
LOOKINGGLASS ALICE at Lookingglass Theatre Company, 821 North Michigan AVenue, through July 31, 2022. Visit lookingglasstheatre.org/event/lookingglass-alice-2022 for tickets.
Photo Credit: Liz Lauren