The brainchild of writer-producer Rochelle Perry, Curious Conversations riffs on the characters and themes of Lewis Carroll. The eight one-acts, by eight playwrights, vary in quality and depth and standard of performance.
Like the material that inspired them, these plays — alternately directed by Shane Labowitz and Madelyne Heyman — cross the world of children with that of adults. The onstage hijinks are broad and colorful, but some of the ideas behind them are, as in Carroll’s books, odd and confounding.
Among the eight is Nancy Cooper Frank’s An Alice of a Certain Age, in which Alice (JC Henning), now a grandmother, makes a return voyage down the rabbit hole, where her encounters are as bizarre and bewildering as when she was a child.
In Michael Maiello’s Looking Through the Glass, a cerebral rumination on identity, an Alice of marriageable age (Nicolette Shutty) plays virtual chess with the Red Queen (Nathalie Blossom), a bewigged harridan with carrot-colored eyelashes. The stakes are Alice’s womanhood and autonomy.
Meet the Tweedles by Eric Duhon presents Tweedle Dee (Melannie Cruz) and Tweedle Dum (Merileigh Moen) as a pair of dancing vaudevillian clowns whose bickering over the nature of their show — is it a “tragical“ history or a musical? — is sprinkled with misquotations from Shakespeare.
And Perry’s Quit While You’re a Head features Adrienne Pearson as an unctuous Mad Hatter, currying favor with the ballistic Queen of Hearts (Abby Gershuny), who has already beheaded everyone else in the kingdom.
The real star of this show is its production design. Everything takes place on Natasha Troop’s black-and-white–checkered set, whose slanting floor and bending walls make everyone who appears on the stage (including a parade of audience members traipsing to and from the bathroom) seem outsized. Added to that are the preshow videography, with its astral and firework patterns, and the vivid, imaginative costumes by Tsebahat Fiseha and Becky Van Cleve.
Eclectic Theatre Company, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village; through June 28. eclecticcompanytheatre.org
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