I had the privilege of heading to the Good Foundation Theater to see this unique adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s beloved tale, Alice in Wonderland.
Playwright and director Julia McCarthy put this emotional comedy together, to give audience members a tour down the rabbit hole that is Alice’s mind.
It follows Alice through a period of depression, bereavement and confusion.
When the play started, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was expecting to see the usual characters – Alice, The Chesire Cat, the Mad Hatter and March Hare, The Queen of Hearts and of course, the White Rabbit – and I did.
What I wasn’t expecting though, was the emotional turn the play took, after offering quite a few laughs.
We learn that Alice’s travels through Wonderland are imagined in her head to help cope with a loss she’s experienced. Through the play we see her interact with all the beloved characters we know and love, but it isn’t until the end that we realize they have been manifested to help her through this depression that she’s been struggling with.
We see present day Alice interact with her younger self multiple times, which shows us a bright curious, imaginative Alice, transform into a sombre, dark, adult Alice struggling to find her way.
The play is filled with laughs, tears and music – some new, and some old, familiar tunes.
Being that it was opening night, it was clear there were some bumps and bruises along the way. A few monologues seemed a little rushed, there were a couple spaces of dead air and the lighting seemed to be off in a few scenes – but these are nothing that can’t be improved on, as the show goes on.
The script is well written and original, while still keeping with the “down the rabbit hole” theme, and the music sets a sombre tone for the theme of the play.
Overall, I would give opening night a 7 out of 10, but am confident in saying that by closing night, I expect to give it a higher rating.
Before the show started, I had the opportunity to sneak around backstage and chat with some of the cast and crew.
George Wardrop plays Alice’s father and the Ace of Hearts and personally loved that he was able to bring some of his own personality to one of his characters, “I like the Ace of Hearts. The Ace of Hearts gets to be a homosexual in this play, so I’m very excited about it, cause the sass is real. I’m very sassy! So I get to bring a little bit of myself into this character, which is nice.”
George has been acting for less than a year, and given his performance, you would never know it.
Next, I was instructed to speak with a vibrant little personality. Eleven year old Angelina Foster delMundo plays the Dormouse, the White Rabbit, and a young Alice. For 11 years old, this girl blew her performance out of the water.
“I get so into character that I am that character,” she explained boldly, when asked if she had any tricks to the trade.
She adds that she was mostly looking forward to emotional side of the play, “the part I’m really excited for is that I get to cry on stage. It’s my really dramatic scene, and I’ve never done a scene so dramatic, so that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
When she grows up to she hopes to be an action star.
As delMundo ran off to finish getting ready, Andrea Avila came rushing my way, clearly excited to share her story. She moved to Canada some years ago and was initially staying in a refugee hotel. She said when she came here she knew acting was one thing she couldn’t let go, “this is my first Fringe show, and only my second play in English. I’m from Mexico, so English is not my first language. So, it’s a bit stressing.”
Avila plays the sassy rose, which provided me with the majority of my laughs throughout the production. Sass she brought indeed.
Up next was my personal favorite character the Chesire cat, played by Isabella Wolder. The excitement in her voice as she talked about the production was so evident, you could tell she’s passionate about the business.
She had nothing but great things to say about the pre-production process and Julia McCarthy, “the artistic team has put so much of their heart into this. And especially because it’s Julia McCarthy’s baby, and it’s her first real time directing something on a larger scale – it’s great to see her dream come into fruition.”
Speaking of McCarthy, I decided to wait until after the show to speak with her, as she seemed a little stressed before hand, “I won’t lie, I was kind of tearing my hair out with stress beforehand.”
Despite a few bumps and bruises though, she was very happy with the outcome of the opening night, “The audience was laughing, there was a few tears at the end. I think overall, for an opening night, I’m very happy.”
Now some of you, like myself, may be wondering where some of the original ideas came from, while trying to keep a theme of an already existing story. According to McCarthy, the emotion of the play was brought on by some very real events.
“It is based a lot on the emotions I felt when my older sister was in a horrible car accident a few years ago. She almost lost her life. She lives in South Africa, so there’s this feeling of utter “helplessness that I knew must come when a family member passes away.” She adds, “the same happened with my grandpa. He passed away of Alzheimer’s and there was nothing we could do, because he was in South Africa.”
She adds that there’s something very powerful about comedy approaching sad things, “this show is a comedy, but there’s a drama in it, so I really wanted that.”
Almost Alice will continue every day until June 11th, at the Good Foundation Theater downtown, and is only $12. If you’re hoping to go on the final night, I would get those tickets while you still can.