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Off the Wall’s Off-Kilter ‘Alice in Wonderland’

Theater Review

Feb. 9, 2011
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Director/playwright Jeremy Welter throws a delightfully shadowy party on one of the smallest stages in town as Off the Wall Theatre frames Lewis Carroll’s works as a dark, retro, rave club land in the production Alice in Wonderland. Welter’s script draws much from the dreamy, chaotic energy of Carroll’s original texts. The dialogue is fueled by Carroll’s genuine love for all the deliciously erratic loopholes in our language.

Liz Mistele is wickedly appealing as a wild and beautiful club princess on a trip through the madness. Performances by the rest of the ensemble, however, are as maddeningly inconsistent as Carroll’s texts. The lesser-known characters make out better in the production. Jacqueline Roush gives an inspired performance as the Duchess, played here as a towering Snooki (from the reality TV show “Jersey Shore”) complete with pitch-perfect New Jersey accent. As with so many other chances the production takes, the Duchess/Snooki bit actually works better than the more traditional staging. Spencer T. Ricks plays the Duchess’ supporting Italian doorman in perfectly complementary fashion. Other notable performances include Ericka Wade as the stunning stage diva Queen of Hearts. Eric Nelson is suitably mad as both Tweedledum and Tweedledee, with makeup and costuming that is half of each.

The show is more stylish than most Off the Wall productions, even though the visuals could use some more polish. But what the artistic design lacks in visual impact, it more than makes up for in details.

Off the Wall Theatre’s production of Alice in Wonderland runs through Feb. 13. For reservations, call 414-327-3552.


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