Wonderland brings whimsy

This past weekend, Powder and Wig put on the annual One-Week Show. This year it was the whimsical Alice in Wonderland. Practiced and staged in just over a week, the One-Week draws students immediately into the theater world at Colby. Billed as the “One-Week Musical,” in the past, the tradition has evolved into an entity more accessible for the typical student. “I think it’s likely we’ll continue with plays, but we haven’t fully committed to changing it one way or the other,” the director, Lily Fernald ‘17, said. “It’s more successful when [a play] is available to a wider range of people. It’s more inclusive.”

The cast, comprised of 24 people, draws from all class years, including eight first-years. “Powder and Wig uses the One-Week as a way to bring new people in and give them the opportunity to feel included and welcomed, regardless of experience,” Fernald continued. “I was blown away by the amount the show has been mastered in this short amount of time. Everyone was quickly off-book and managed the poetry that saturates the work.” Due to the length of the work, Fernald debated cutting down Lewis Carroll’s dreamlike poems, but decided they were integral to the piece. Out of sight, actors sang some of the poems, adding to the surreality and wonder of the play.

Alice in Wonderland, the timeless story of a young girl who falls through the looking glass and into Wonderland, celebrates surreal, cascading poetry-prose that build scenes as dreamy as though viewed through a summer haze. The characters flit in and out, anchored by the constant presence of Alice, ironically the single ill-at-ease entity. Her struggle to adapt to this new environment was clear through Rachel Benway’s ‘19 portrayal; as a character, Alice is an odd mixture between childishness and maturity. She has a clear-eyed naivete tinged with a mature awareness of herself, her being, and the meaning of her situation. Alice has a terribly hard time communicating with the other players; everyone around her provides the energy and bedlam, while she acts as the voice of “reason,” although one is never fully clear about what she’s thinking. Alice was the most grounded but the most discombobulated. The poetry-prose probes and questions, clouding reality and time and building layers of wordplay. It is a miraculous feat to memorize all those lines, which Benway and the rest of the cast delivered with just the right amount of casual elegance.

Cast members of Alice in Wonderland Izzy Zaidi ’17 | The Colby Echo

Cast members of Alice in Wonderland Izzy Zaidi ’17 | The Colby Echo

“This version of the script has a lot of important characters in a few scene; there’s no hierarchy of supporting characters, and everyone has an important moment,” Fernald said. Indeed, characters of hysterical proportions (most notably the White Rabbit played by Dylan Shaw ‘19 and the Mock Turtle played by Charlotte Purcell ‘19) punctuated the frenzy of scenes with hilarity and enthusiasm.

Projections on the walls behind the stage provided much of the scenery, creating psychedelic imagery melanged with physical objects on stage. “We had a really successful tech run,” Fernald said, attributing their prowess to an early start in the summer. “The projectionist Jay Huskins ‘19 learned and made a visual sequence for several major moments.” The visual effects were certainly an important addition, well crafted for such an anonymous space as Page Commons. Teapots and clocks swirled with kaleidoscopic colors, and rainbow clouds puffed across the screen in time with the caterpillar’s hookah. As Alice shrunk, the personified table John Baker ‘19 stood and a door enlarged on-screen. The production was a whimsical blend of traditional “Alice”, using iconic costuming and characters, with a modern twist in the form of projected scenery. The strangeness and comfort of Wonderland was clear and tangible, shown through the familiarity of the characters’ interactions and Alice’s often blunt confusion.

Fernald wanted to choose a classic, recognizable show. Alice in Wonderland has always been a favorite of hers. “I don’t know anyone who has said they understand it fully,” Fernald said. This, in essence, provides the final culmination of the work; we are left guessing, left pondering, left wondering. “Curioser and curioser,” as Alice would say.

Powder and Wig is putting on two more plays this season: The Glass Menagerie, directed by sophomore Cole Walsh, will take place on November 4th and 5th. Romeo and Juliet, directed by sophomore Kaylee Pomelow, will be on December 9th and 10th. Questions about the plays should be directed to Cole Walsh (cawalsh@colby.edu) and Kaylee Pomelow (kpomelow@colby.edu), respectively. Inquiries for tech should go to Nora Hill (nmhill@colby.edu).

Leave a Reply