That was an hilarious, over-the-top romp! The all-Edmonton cast at The Citadel Theatre in this version of the Stratford Festival-National Arts Centre production of Alice Through the Looking Glass is by turns mystifying, magical, joyful, creepy, playful, and tender, but always thoroughly charming and endearing. This Looking Glass House and Garden are populated by all the characters to be expected from Lewis Carroll’s book with the addition of an at times disturbing chorus of dark-haired, dark-cross-dressed Alice Doppelgangers.
The cast is consistently outstanding – a demonstration of the depth and breadth of the talent pool in Edmonton’s theatre community. It would be pointless to single out individuals as all are a joy to watch in their multiple rolls.
I don’t want to post any spoilers, so, my brief thoughts are veiled:
The Fourth Wall is the Looking Glass, and the characters break the Fourth Wall in a very sweet way.
Everthing is reversed/inverted/turned about in Alice: upstage/downstage, onstage/backstage, House/stage, audience/cast. While the cross-dressing of the Alice Doppelgangers is an obvious inversion, what I found to be a witty, smart, easy-to-miss, and powerful-in-post-TRC-Edmonton-and-Canada casting decision was to have a White guy play the Red Knight and a Native guy – the brilliant Sheldon Elert (oops! I singled him out!) – play the White Knight.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is, of course, a celebration of childhood, a gentle reminder to adults who may have lost touch with their happy, frightened, puzzled, fascinated inner child, and an homage to magnificently successful and sensible nonsense of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. But here, in this production at the Citadel Theatre in its Fiftieth Anniversary Season, I think Alice is also a bit of a love letter, a bit of a note home from a still-young but oh so precocious city to and from itself. That guy up on the wall in the egg costume lives down the road and dresses up like a fountain. That guy in the Victorian little girl’s dress is the guy you see playing in the local ukelele band or walking through Old Strathcona with the bright pink shirt on, a guitar over his shoulder. Alice is the nervous kid starting out at Grant MacEwan. And all of those people on stage you’ve seen so many times before pacing the boards of the theatres – or raising a glass in the pubs or a cup in the coffee shops – of Whyte, Jasper, 124th, 118th, or the French Quarter.
Happy Birthday, Citadel Theatre! And, Thank You! to the larger Edmonton theatre and arts community. You’ve helped make Edmonton both a Looking Glass House and a Wonderland!
Alice Through the Looking Glass is the most fun you’re going to have at the theatre in a long time. Maybe ever. Go see it. At the Citadel. Until March 20th, 2016.