Army wife, former school teacher, actress and standup comedian, author Silvia Gonzalez has several plays to her credit. In this one, she has delved into her Mexican heritage to create a Latin American parallel to “Alice in Wonderland.” What she has wrought is flashy, colorful, fast-moving, with a horrendous number of props and stage equipment and a cast of odd characters. She shows great inventiveness in devising these characters, basing them on familiar figures that are easily as fanciful and flamboyant as those in the Lewis Carroll classic.
The Coterie production captures very well the play’s ethnic flavor and hallucinatory premise. The colorful costumes and set and the elementary comedy and sight gags please the youngsters, while all of these and the ethnic humor catch the adults.
Director Jose Cruz Gonzalez (no relation to the author) has a talented cast, all of whom, except Marlene Mujica in the title role, play multiple parts. He knits together the abundant material well and delivers it at a lively pace, capturing the cast’s enthusiasm. But he might have done well to vary the tempo, which at times tends to blur the ethnic thrust.
Mujica, as Alicia, begins as the typical American teenager, with little interest in her Mexican heritage, speaking only English. While shopping with her mother in a curio shop, she is intrigued by a Mexican doll, trips over some pottery as she reaches for it, hits her head and conks out. The doll, Rosa, becomes a life-size woman who Alicia follows into a variety of bizarre encounters.
There is a Day of the Dead talking sugar skull, an outstanding prop, skillfully operated by Linda Amayo, who doubles as ably under the armadillo headpiece. Philip blue owl Hooser, under a huge horny toad headpiece, finds it difficult to win friends because he is ugly but draws many a laugh from his plight. He also gets the laughs as the pachuco head, the Aztec priest and the pottery maker. The evil “Elvira” gang, in garish makeup a la the popular TV figure, captures Rosa, only to have her freed by Alicia, who has consulted with the priest and the pottery maker. In gratitude, Rosa helps Alicia go home.
Back at the curio shop, Alicia finds she’s able to speak Spanish. Along the way, she has traveled through the Distorted Memory Forest, the Village of Laughter and a maze of velvet paintings. All this runs just 75 minutes, adapted from a slightly longer original.
Staging this work is an extreme technical challenge to any theater and a certain trial for smaller theaters. Still, it should be rewarding as something new, imaginative and vivacious that intrigues the whole family with its many levels of action and generous humor.