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Alice in Wonderland at Olympia Family Theater

Take a trip down the rabbit hole

From left: Elizabeth Alexander as Mad Hatter, Hannah Eklund as White Rabbit and Simon Tran as March Hare. Photo courtesy Olympia Family Theater

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Come out of the rain to kick off spring with Olympia Family Theater's production of Alice in Wonderland - a lot of fun for kids from 3 to 73. Adapted from the book by Lewis Carroll by the multi-talented writer/director/actor Kate Ayers and directed by OFT co-founder and artistic director Jen Ryle, this Alice is different from OFT's typical show - if there is anything typical about their shows - in that it is not a musical and that it does not follow a traditional story arc. Rather, it is an episodic play with each episode standing alone almost like skits in a late-night comedy show, as Alice (Isabelle Ringin) runs into a strange assortment of anthropomorphic animals: White Rabbit (Hannah Eklund), a hyperactive giant Puppy (Steven Wells), the grinning Cheshire Cat (Korja Giles), the Mad Hatter and Mock Turtle (both played by Elizabeth Alexander, the evil Queen of Hearts (Christine Goode), and many more of Carroll's famous creations.

Technically, the play is spectacular. The painted backdrop by Steve Bylsma, the surprising sound designed by Ayers and lighting by Miranda Waldron (also responsible for clever and delightful props), all add immeasurably to the enjoyment of the performance, and of course the costumes by Mishka Navarre are marvelous.

The playwright, with input from Ryle, has done an admirable job of incorporating characters, and even entire scenes, from Carroll's follow-up book, Alice Through The Looking Glass. The delightful flower scene, for instance, is not in Alice in Wonderland. Neither are the characters Puppy and Tweedle Dee (Phillip Butler) and Tweedle Dum (Liam Connolly). Wells is fabulous as Puppy. He wags his tail and pants and goes absolutely giddy with excitement whenever anyone pets him. The opening night audience was howling with laughter whenever he appeared. (Wells was also fun to watch in his multiple appearances as Sister, Dormouse, Orchid and Five; he and most of the other cast members appear in multiple roles.)

Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are both delightful, plus they serve as stage hands moving props and set pieces, making the necessary transitions between scenes, which in many plays are an unwelcome distraction, a joy to watch.

Ringin plays Alice as loveable, slightly confused by all she runs into after falling down the rabbit hole, and full of joy. Opening night she playfully interacted with the younger children seated on the front row benches, as I suspect she will throughout the run of Alice.

Goode plays the imperious Queen of Hearts with subtlety and a sly mischievous grin that endears her to the young audience.

There are no children in this play. The cast is made up of professional adult actors who throw themselves into their respective roles with abandon. It starts early and ends early, 75 minutes plus a 15-minute intermission.

Alice in Wonderland, 7 p.m., Thursday-Friday; 2 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, through April 2, $19 adults, $16 military, $13 youth, 612 4th Ave. E., Olympia, 360.570.1638,

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