REVIEW: “Alice: An Immersive Adventure” — The Electric Company Theatre @Muckenthaler Cultural Center
Updated: Mar 25
It was during a boat trip in July, 1862, that the story of a seven-year-old girl’s escapades in an imaginary world — where it is always teatime, playing chess is a death wish, and animals speak in riddles — was first told to young Alice Liddell. Oxford University don Charles Lutwidge Dodgson would three years later publish his tale, "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" under the nom de plume Lewis Carroll.
And in the more than 160 years since, it has not yet been out of print.
And as every enthusiast of the unflappable young heroine knows, Alice’s tumble down that enchanted rabbit hole led to an off-kilter world of dancing flora, punctual rabbits and mad tea parties. Nothing is as it seems in this land where whimsy and wordplay are the order of the day, infusing the picaresque narrative with emotional potency. In fact, everything is quite upside-down and backwards in a tangled, surreal world.
The novel has had a profound influence on literally everything — even its madcap lexicon of invented words has cemented itself into the English language, and it has also given us the archetypes of the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts, and all the others in that universe who have forever imprinted themselves on the hearts and minds of millions of people.
But it is the sheer singular focus of Carroll’s story that stands out the most — the story of a little girl, finding her own way. A presumptuous, big-eyed girl who views Wonderland’s eccentricities with a critical eye, but whose curiosity is boundless.
Here is a child willing to follow a rabbit down a deep, dark hole out of pure fascination, willing to withstand insults, riddles, dangerous confusions, near-drowning, possible poisoning and even the threat of execution. A pioneering Victorian, like her creator, she encounters the inexplicable, the imponderable and the unfamiliar with dauntless courage, ever the defiant adventurer.
But now, you can experience these same adventures and feel like a child again on a fantastical reimagined experience called “Alice: An Immersive Adventure,” provided by The Electric Company Theatre, the theater company in residence at Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton.
Here, you can dive down, down, down through the rabbit hole and experience a topsy-turvy daytime adventure in the magical world of Alice, deep into an alternate universe in which fanciful figures are transformed into far-out off-beat equivalents. The Muckenthaler Cultural Center has been turned into a psychedelic, kaleidoscopic fantasy world, where whacky characters and objects adorn every nook and cranny, sure to put you in a glad-handering mood.
As artistic directors of The Electric Company Theatre, the husband and wife team of Callie Prendiville Johnson and Brian Johnson directs this family-friendly tour, which provides a fun and safe way for the entire family to enjoy live entertainment this weekend, and takes place entirely outdoors on the Muck’s grounds and gardens.
This veritable buffet of sensual delight with its wonderfully engaging characters brings the classic story quite literally to life. In a remarkably synced program, ushers or characters lead small groups into several timed scenes throughout the sprawling grounds.
Basically, compiled as a series of fifteen non-sequitur, immersive vignettes, it’s a derivative of the main novel, and the story is quite the same. The sassy White Rabbit still frets about always running behind, the Mad Hatter is still serving his tea-soaked biscuits and the Queen obliges us with her usual fits of pique. From long-time Alice fans to kids who’ve perhaps only ever seen the Disney movie, I would recommend the show as a fun family affair.
After a brief check-in at the entrance that includes a name tag, simply stating “Alice’s Friend,” the show plunges the visitor into an interactive wonderland of cultural reinventions. Wander through the gardens, aided by an immersive, exquisitely detailed map where vignettes from the stories of Alice come to life in dazzling fashion. You’ll be able to meet Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Mad Hatter, the Marche Hare, the King, and the Queen of Hearts, to name a few.
There are sack races, a chaotic tea party, flower painting, chess with the Queen, and other worlds of sensory delights. The vivid costumes are showy, splashy and eye-catching, and the characters are at their best: imaginative, colorful and memorable. When your tour is finished, a special show will be performed under the staged amphitheater, complete with treats and songs.
Truth be told, maybe the best way to really appreciate “Alice: An Immersive Adventure” is to surrender to its mad excess, relish in the word play, skewed logic and fantasy, leave the world’s drama outside and simply focus on the travels and travails of an endlessly curious English girl named Alice.
So, come tumble down the rabbit hole in an interactive theatrical adventure like no other! Meet some of Wonderland’s most famous and curious inhabitants. Have tea at the biggest un-birthday party with the maddest of Hatters, let the Cheshire Cat take you hither or thither, or play chess with the fearsome Queen of Hearts.
“Alice: An Immersive Adventure,” now playing on the grounds of the Muckenthaler Cultural Center as you’ve never experienced it before, beautifully transformed into Lewis Carroll’s technicolor Wonderland. Only three more performances remain: Saturday February 19th, Sunday, February 20th and Monday, February 21st. Social distancing and Covid 19 protocols apply. Tickets are $20 each. Muck Golden Ticket holders can attend for free. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to check availability and reserve your ticket at least 48 hours in advance of the performance you would like to attend.
Arts & Entertainment Reviewer
The Show Report