- The Washington Times - Monday, December 8, 2008

Growing up can be such a bother, but Round House Theatre’s light and lovely adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” allows us to linger for a spell in a childlike realm of magic and imagination.

Written and directed by Mary Hall Surface, the world-premiere “Alice” is a rarity among entertainment designed for the 8- to-11-year-old set. It has the requisite sweetness, but the production’s overall refined sheen keeps the twee preciousness at bay so adults don’t have to worry about their blood sugar spiking.

This is a beautiful show, with Tony Cisek’s set and Marianne Custer’s costumes employing a palette as white and fresh as first snow, frosted with vibrant, creamy colors found in fondant icing. The elegant approach to the frantically zany settings and characters from Carroll’s storybooks puts you in mind of director Mary Zimmerman’s (“Pericles,” “Argonautika”) stunning visual sense, her playing with proportion and her deft use of puppetry.

In “Alice,” the White Rabbit (Chris Wilson) sometimes morphs into a nimble marionette, and the Gryphon looks like a liquid-silver expressionistic sculpture with enormous silver wings befitting a superhero. The Caterpillar (the superb Bill Largess) is a well-shod centipede with Crocs at the end of his striped-sock feet, and the Cheshire Cat (Marcus Kyd) employs an accordion for his famous grin. Upturned umbrellas become bobbing flower heads when Alice (Meghan Grady) drinks the mysterious potions that make her large and small.

Round House’s production also is enhanced by Miss Grady, an adult actress who is a truly enchanting Alice. Full of poise and wonderment, Miss Grady’s Alice is lighter than air. Her glide through Wonderland is made indelible by the ensemble, who bring the characters to eccentric life. Hugh Nees portrays the Mock Turtle with doleful dignity and is charmingly exasperating as the Mad Hatter. Lise Bruneau’s overbearing presence as the Queen of Hearts is both comic and formidable, while Tonya Beckman Ross makes a variety of characters amusingly off-kilter.



These visual fancies are theatrical without going overboard, and so “Alice” happily lacks the hectic whimsy that often occurs in adaptations of Lewis Carroll’s works. Without unnecessary distraction, the audience can concentrate on the author’s wordplay and the air of cultured absurdity that permeates the Wonderland stories.

WHAT: “Alice,” written and directed by Mary Hall Surface

WHERE: Round House Theatre Bethesda, 4545 East West Highway, Bethesda

WHEN: 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, 8 p.m. Saturdays. Through Dec. 28. No performances Dec. 24 and 25.

TICKETS:$25 to $60

PHONE:240/644-1100

WEB SITE: www.roundhousetheatre.org

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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