Lily Blau’s new memory play isn’t the first story to conjecture that children’s author Lewis Carroll (Leo Marks) might have crossed a line in his friendship with Alice Liddel (Corryn Cummins), the 10-year-old inspiration for his most enduring work. The 1985 Dennis Potter–scripted film Dreamchild covers similar terrain in an arguably more elegant and historically measured fashion.
But Blau’s The Missing Pages of Lewis Carroll may well be the first to explicitly show the beloved author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland molesting the unfortunate Alice on the floor of his makeshift photography studio (on Stephen Gifford’s nicely emblematic set).
To be fair, the rape comes as a guilt-racked fantasy, incited by the anthropomorphic White Rabbit (Jeff Marlow), which serves as Carroll’s long-dormant conscience. Both have been provoked by the imminent visit of the adult Alice on the eve of her wedding.
Cummins’ transit from willful, coquettish adolescence to recriminatory womanhood is a marvel of observation and nuance, and director Abigail Deser’s staging gets high marks for sheer polish (helped by Garry Lennon’s surreal-edged costuming, Keith Skretch’s psychedelic video projections and John Ballinger’s vivid sound). It is Blau’s text that finally shortchanges, as the psychological melodrama fails to deliver either fresh insight or the requisite dramatic surprise.
Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena; through March 1. (626) 683-6883, bostoncourt.com.
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