Arts & Culture

Production Workshop falls down the rabbit hole

“Wonderland” engages audience in interactive play with intricate set, dynamic performances

By
Staff Writer
Friday, February 6, 2015

Production Workshop actress Charlotte Senders ’18 performs a scene from a stage adaptation of Lewis Caroll’s storybook.

“Wonderland,” a play directed by Rebecca Carrol ’15 and produced by the Production Workshop, is interactive in the truest sense of the word. A dizzying and realistic descent through a rabbit hole carries audience members into the pages of the familiar storybook on which this devised piece is based: Lewis Carroll’s “The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland.” From these first moments, the audience members, much like Alice herself, become part of a fantastical and enticing world wrought with its own dark secrets and tensions.

Developed over the course of a few weeks by the PW actors and designers, the play grew from a skeletal concept — 10 characters and a few central events — into a multi-dimensional and complex plot. As the characters move through their roles, audience members wander, explore and start to understand Wonderland. Themes and motifs slowly come to light through direct interactions with actors, who bring familiar storybook faces to life. The characters’ unique but intimately-linked stories progress in tandem, separating and coming together in a sort of dance through time and space as they approach the climactic final scene.   

Well-developed roles, deliberate lighting and detailed set and costume design all serve to provide structure to the dream-like and sometimes overwhelming nature of the story and its presentation. Colorful lighting scatters across the playful landscape, with high and low lights shifting, dimming and intensifying to direct the audience’s attention while simultaneously adding to the confusion and mystery that drives forth the plot. 

Strong character development is evident and enthralling. It is a powerful tool that lends continuity and grounding to the story’s surreal and distinct framework. The King, played by Anthony De Rita ’18, serves as a guide, animatedly narrating in rhyme whenever the group converges. De Rita also personally nudges along audience members to engage them in the imaginary community as the characters disperse into their individual existences and actions. As these individual scenes play out in various corners of the space, the audience witnesses the humorous idiosyncrasies that define each person and creature in Wonderland — from the convincingly insane Mad Hatter, played by  Rohit Basavaraju PhD ’18, to the adorably lovable Dormouse played by Zoe Thompson ’15 and the icy Queen of Hearts played by Joanna de Boer ’16 — and how their unique roles fit together.

The setup of this artistic and abstract interpretation of Carroll’s classic creates not only an interactive experience, but also an unusually individual one. Audience members move on their own, like the shadows in the strange world, each catching different snippets of the gossip, friendships, attitudes and life in this fantastical community. Short and sweet, the play will keep you on your toes, both literally and figuratively, for the hour-long duration.