Alice: End of Daze
nytheatre.com review by Daniel Kelley
April 26, 2008
Alice: End of Daze is an exploration of aspects of the story of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. In this re-imagining, Alice is played by a 60-year-old woman who is faced with the threat of nuclear oblivion, death by firing squad and the Inquisition, in addition to the likes of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. These could be compelling choices, if explored in depth. However, Triple Shadow, the company behind Alice: End of Daze, has chosen to use the story of Alice as an experiment in aesthetics, rather than as a vehicle to communicate emotional or intellectual points. While their aesthetic has its interesting moments, it alone is not enough to sustain an evening of theatre.
The evening is made up of nine vignettes that bring the character of Alice into various dreamlike settings. Some of these are fantastical adventures, such as Alice chasing after a train run by a tap-dancing Humpty Dumpty, or her mythical quest for the Jar of Night. Some of these try to bring Alice into a modern context, but these attempts feel contrived. In a later scene with Humpty Dumpty, Alice attempts to cook food but, instead, completely ruins everything. As a result, Humpty Dumpty calls her a "terrorist." The term feels stapled on, and not earned. Likewise, Alice faced with a firing squad feels gratuitous.
The most compelling vignette is the fourth—entitled "Wood." In this, the character of Alice is lost in the woods. The wood is created on stage by Alice drawing with marker on a projector screen, and having the trees projected onto the set. Alice is then harangued by two Tweedle Dee- and Tweedle Dum-like characters about who she is- because in this wood nobody can remember who they are.
At one point Alice falls asleep in a baby carriage—a striking image, this 60-year-old, dressed as a nine-year-old, asleep in a baby carriage. However, the image doesn't hold the weight of what it might suggest. The language of the scene is cryptic, but not terrifically steeped in meaning. The performances are highly stylized, and keep the audience at a distance. The result is that what could have been an intriguing examination of an idea based around a striking visual, is reduced to just the visual, which holds less weight on its own.
The real star of this show is the technical design. Paul Clay's lighting and video design, with additional video by Nico Herbst, is admirable, at times ingenious. Several moments of the video design are genuinely surprising— Alice holding up a sheet of paper that becomes a video screen, playing an old PSA about "ducking and covering" to avoid a nuclear attack. Jun Maeda's scenic design is simple but very effective.
It's obvious that a lot of time, energy, and resources went into creating Alice: End of Daze. Had the team behind this piece delved a little deeper into ideas they were stirring up, rather than just focusing on the stage images, the piece could potentially be a very engaging and intriguing piece of theatre. However, in its current form, Alice: End of Daze is a series of theatrical images within the framework of a familiar story that doesn't hold together as a complete evening of theatre.