Lookingglass Alice is spectacular

Friday afternoon, a friend who was on the cusp of moving out of town, offered me her tickets to Saturday night’s performance of Lookingglass Alice, at the Arden Theater Company. I accepted, because I try never to miss an opportunity to see live theater and almost everything I’ve seen at the Arden has been quite wonderful (The Syringa Tree was particularly amazing).

My friend Shay and I had a dinner of Franklin Fountain ice cream for dinner before entering the theater. Neither of us knew what to expect when we sat down. The set that we could see was a rough approximation of an drawing room, complete with fireplace, clock and mantelpiece mirror. A black curtain hung lengthwise across the middle of the stage, dividing the space into two. We couldn’t see what was on the other side of the curtain, but we knew that half the audience was sitting over there, and that the mirror was actually a gilded frame with no glass, giving a narrow view of the other half of the theater.

After a brief introductory scene in which Alice travels through the lookingglass, the curtain drops and the set opens up. It stays mostly bare for the rest of the show, making room for the actors to wow us with their skills as acrobats and trapeze artists. It was an amazingly well-done production.

It normally lasts 90 minutes, with no intermission, but the night I saw it, there was a power surge (the result of the electrical storm that shook the city that night) that damaged some of the lights in the theater. They took nearly 30 minutes off during the middle of the show during which they attempted to repair the lights. Eventually they gave up and completed the performance with less special lighting that they would normally have. Instead of compromising the magic of the experience, it gave the audience a feeling of connectedness with the performers, that we were all in it together.

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