By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Beyond the kiddie story and Jabberwocky prose that render Alice so exotic, the Carroll wave makes perfect sense for our age. In the last six years, we’ve seen the world’s devil horns arrive at our door, and our nation fall off the wall ideologically, economically and spiritually, like Humpty Dumpty. Zombie Joe’s Underground was born from goth more than a decade ago, and has made a Brechtian-infused gothic macabre its specialty. In Denise Devin and Zombie Joe’s freewheeling, hallucinogenic 70-minute adaptation (it’s the dream of Alice’s great-granddaughter, played here with wide-eyed vivaciousness by Jessica Amal Rice), the Queen of Hearts (Jana Wimer) has gone on a rampage of pointless beheadings, and Alice’s task (ignited by her sexual fantasy, The White Knight [Jackson Baker], having “lost his head”) is to kill the cloistered, lunatic royal who’s decimating the empire.
The structure consists of Alice, guided by The White Rabbit (Jeffrey Grin), going off to see the Queen and being visited by an array of Carroll’s characters whom the pair meet en route. With songs by Christopher Reiner (and Lewis Carroll), Jeri Batzdorff’s gorgeous costumes, and Wimer’s enveloping mural backdrop that’s part Victorian fairy tale and part Brueghel the Elder, Devin and Joe’s archly presentational direction is wildly theatrical and entertaining and, at the same time, unrelentingly aggressive and loud, bypassing so many nuances embedded in their script. Much of the wisdom of Alice in Wonderlandlies in Alice’s moments of quiet wonder.
A similar problem plagued their recent adaptation of works by Edgar Allan Poe. This company, one of the most inventive and charismatic in the city, is now at the point where Santa Monica’s City Garage was five years ago, performing intriguing works in a singularly relentless tone. City Garage has worked through those limitations on a road to artistic maturity and sophistication. For this very good company to become a great one, Zombie Joe’s needs to do the same.
MODERN ORTHODOX | By DANIEL GOLDFARB | Presented by THEATRE 40, on the Beverly Hills High School campus, Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 Moreno Drive (use Olympic Boulevard entrance due to construction), Beverly Hills | Through Sept. 9 | (310) 364-0535
ALICE IN WONDERLAND THRU THE LOOKING GLASS | By DENISE DEVIN, LEWIS CARROLL and ZOMBIE JOE | Presented by ZOMBIE JOE’S UNDERGROUND THEATRE GROUP, 4850 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd. | Through Sept. 8 | (818) 202-4120