Shakespeare by the Sea returns for its 25th anniversary with a trip down the rabbit hole. The result is a fun, energized caper that does justice to Lewis Carroll’s tale of nonsensical madness.
At the heart of this adaptation, Melissa MacGougan steps into the beloved role of Alice. Precocious, yet impulsive, MacGougan serves her role admirably, keeping a play centred on wackiness firmly on its tracks. The choice by Shakespeare by the Sea to fill its ranks this summer with all-returning cast members is a good one; each character Alice encounters is hilariously memorable and an instant hit for all audience members. Longtime veteran Tom Gordon Smith is at the height of his comedic game, going all-out as the despotic, decapitation-crazy, jilted-by-Brian Queen of Hearts. Likewise, Simon Rainville shines in his best role to date as the White Rabbit; his shtick as The Queen’s nervous lackey was one of my favourite parts of the whole show. Peter Sarty relishes his role as the creepy Cheshire Cat who serves as Alice’s cryptic compass through Wonderland and Beyond. Throw in Madeleine Tench and Katherine Tufts as the idiot brothers Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and the scene-stealers Kat McCormack, Dan Bray, and Jade Douris (as the Mad Hatter, March Hare, and Dormouse, respectively), and you got yourself a slice of fried gold! Don’t get me started on the musical talent of Garry Williams, Jeremy Hutton, Shanoa Phillips, and Drew O’Hara! Because they were also quite good!
And while I run the risk of losing my head, I noticed that by packing your play with an all-star cast of lunatics, sanity ultimately loses out. In a production of rapping rabbits, soul-sister caterpillars, and singing playing cards, Alice gets lost in the shuffle. (See what I did there?) Additionally, I found myself wanting a bit more from the script in terms of a trajectory for Alice. It was nice to see her become more selfless as the play progressed, but the evolution of her character getting to that point could’ve been a touch more developed.
But you know what? Slight misgiving aside, the cast of Alice In Wonderland should applaud themselves for delivering a well-rounded, engaging story that balances the tricky feat of being consistently hilarious the whole way through. If the happy looks of audience members were any indication as to this comedy’s merit, this play has entertainment in spades! (Oh! I did it again!)
Shakespeare By The Sea‘s presentation of Alice In Wonderland is on now through Saturday, September 1st; tickets are available online or at the show. Matinees and rained-out shows will be at Park Place Theatre, otherwise you’ll find them at the Cambridge Battery, Point Pleasant Park.
Top photo, back row: Jade Douris (Field Mouse), Simon Rainville (The White Rabbit), Madeleine Tench (Tweedle Dum), Kathryn McCormack (The Mad Hatter), Tom Gordon Smith (Queen of Hearts), Peter Sarty (Cheshire Cat), Katherine Tufts (Tweedle Dee), Dan Bray (The March Hare). Front row: Shanoa Philips (7 of spades), Jeremy Hutton (5 of spades), Melissa MacGougan (Alice), Garry Williams (2 of spades), Drew O’Hara (Ace of spades).
All photos credited to Nick Harrison of Shakespeare By The Sea.