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Review: 'A Perfect Likeness' makes a fine Dickens-Carroll connection

Charles Dickens meets Lewis Carroll, literally, in “A Perfect Likeness” at Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena. This beautifully appointed two-hander about the authors of “Great Expectations” and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” isn’t exactly deep-dish, but it should appeal to those seeking a pleasantly literate 90 minutes in the theater.

Written, directed and produced by Daniel Rover Singer of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” renown, “Likeness” draws its premise from one historical fact -- that Rev. Charles Dodgson, alias Carroll, once requested Dickens’ mailing address.

The rest is an imagined audience between the men at amateur photographer Dodgson’s rooms at Oxford, its text culled from their writings and longtime speculations about both men's private lives.

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It looks perfectly scrumptious, the designed-by-committee set a plushly detailed study, augmented by projections of letters, era photographs and so forth overhead. As Dickens, here a rather louche, frankly irreverent wag, Actors Co-op stalwart Bruce Ladd continues his development into one of our most reliable character actors, and Daniel J. Roberts’ sensitive, neurasthenic Carroll contrasts effectively with his jovial bombast.

Their keen interplay carries “A Perfect Likeness” past some precious passages that approach fan-fic, and periodic bits of business that strain credulity. For example, the pair feigning a duel with umbrella and walking stick within minutes of meeting is distractingly unlikely, even in a fantasia.

Still, there is intelligence and charm on tap, although the exposed footnotes and surface jokes suggest this crowd-pleasing property’s ultimate destination may be as an original Netflix series about rambunctious Victorian scribes.

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“A Perfect Likeness,” Fremont Centre Theatre, 1000 Fremont Ave., South Pasadena. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Dark Nov. 14, Nov.28-Dec.1. Ends Dec. 22. $15-$25. (866) 811-4111 or  www.fremontcentretheatre.com. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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