The Looking Glass Wars at Art Sanctuary and Alley Theater are presented in a non-traditional workshop format. Chairs surround the floor area that serves as the stage and projections on all four corners of the rectangular area help to tell the story.
The play was adapted by Todd Ziegler from The Looking Glass Wars books by Frank Beddor. Ziegler seemed to do a pretty good job, but there is a scene or two at the beginning that was confusing. The play flips between our world and wonderland, making it hard to follow at times.
This is partially because the young child Alyss is played by the same actress throughout (as a child and as an adult) in the same costume for much of it. It takes a moment for the difference between worlds to settle in. Scott Davis did a good job directing the cast, designing the set, and working with Theodora Collins to design the lighting.
There was a very strong cast. All of the characters came across as very strong personalities. Hallie Dizdarevic really portrayed the strength of a queen ready to lead an army. I saw her in Point Break Live! and it was very interesting to see her play such a different role. She pulls off both comedy and drama very well. Tony Smith was a fantastic cat. He was so athletic and animated. He moves so quickly across the stage, jumps high into the air, and swings his sword with such precision that I can't imagine a better actor to portray the role. Despite his wonderful portrayal of the warrior cat, I have to say that his portrayal of a mime was my favorite moment in the play. I was laughing so hard; I'm pretty sure the audience was staring at me. Bridget Witzke really sparkled as Queen Red and came across as the strongest to me. She commanded the attention of the audience with every appearance. I also have to mention that Gregory Fugate made a wonderful and slimy acting debut as the Jack of Diamonds, and April Singer came across very strong as well. She has such a strong stage presence that I'd like to see her in a more prominent role in a future production. The entire cast did a wonderful job of pulling off multiple roles.
The story presented is that Princess Alyss Heart is taken into the Pool of tears to escape a bloody scene at her palace in Wonderland. Queen Red wants to overthrow the Heart family and kills Queen Heart. Hatter Madigan is supposed to take Alyss through the pool into our world but is separated from her. She is adopted by the Liddell's and befriended by Charles Dodgson who publishes her stories about Wonderland under the name Lewis Carroll (Portrayed very well by JP Lebangood).
Just as she is set to marry a prince in our world, Alyss is rescued by her childhood friend and guard Dodge Anders (Todd Zeigler).She is returned to Wonderland where she survives a crystal maze to reach her full potential and overthrow Queen Red.
There were some technical difficulties with the production that will probably be worked out by next weekend. The projections on the screens were run by computers as evidenced by a desktop showing up on one of the screens at one point for a brief moment. The sound levels were also a little off. The volume of recorded sounds and effects were so loud, it was a little distracting. It would help if they were lowered to be closer to the level of the actor's voices.
Aside from these minor issues, the production team does a good job of inspiring the audience to ponder the power and importance of imagination and how different our internal and external lives can be.