Playing with a full deck

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In ambitiously following Lewis Carroll down the literary rabbit hole, Sonoma playwright Tony Ginesi peers into the looking glass and sees political unrest, class struggle and more than a bit of slapstick comedy. The result, in which the power of imagination trumps the evil Queen of Hearts, is “Alice: The Rebellion of Wonderland.”

The original work closes its Andrews Hall run with shows August 21-24.

A troubled Alice finds herself back in Wonderland. With her long blonde hair and that air of petulance unique to teenagers, Tessa Hope Morgan fits the part to the tea… tea being the obsession of her two new friends, the Mad Hatter, a wonderfully giddy Ted Smith, and The Karl Marx Hare, the rabbit-headed activist played by Sam Starr.

Smith, stylized as a Russian dissident, is as much Groucho Marx as Karl. His wordplay with the Hatter shows great chemistry, and their antics, given the play’s context of power and politics, are rife for one-liners. “Tea party?,” he quips. “It’s already been done. It didn’t work.”

Later, the White Rabbit (Samantha Lane), says she “won’t deal with revolutionaries. I don’t have the constitution for that.” Clearly this is no pool of tears.

As The Tweedles (dum and do, trapped in one body), Alexis Long is — are? – a phenomena. Careening madly between her passive and aggressive selves, she’s a Chernobyl of manic energy.

But amid the nonsense, says director Nick Christensen, Alice has brought some of her own darkness into what had been a place of sanctuary and wonder. She’s convinced to join the rebellion, indeed to lead it. Chased by the Queen’s evil henchman (a classically villainous Matthew T. Witthaus, as the leather-winged Crow) the show builds to a metaphysical confrontation with the Queen.

“Somewhere along the way, we as adults let the world beat us down, and feel we have no where to go,” Christensen says. “This is what the play is about. Saving our imaginations and fighting for our right to dream.”

The costumes, hair and make-up, by Breen Bruder and Gianna Morton, are excellent – a wonderland of thrift shop chic. Anthropomorphism has ever has never looked hipper; the White Rabbit, in particular, is ready for a cover shot.

The cast includes Michael Hunter as a dapper Humpty Dumpty, Cat Bish as the inscrutable Caterpillar, and Mark Stanley as the stoic, all-human White Knight. Bill Garcia is the guard, and also the voice of the Cheshire Cat puppet. Even with the mystery of the Queen’s identity. “Alice” is playing with a full deck.

“Alice: The Rebellion of Wonderland,”August 21-24, Thursday-Saturday 8 p.m. Sunday 2 p.m. $12-$25. Andrews Hall, Sonoma Community Center, 276 E. Napa St.

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