THEATER REVIEW / "ALICE IN WONDERLAND" : A Quick Trip Through a Tea Party : The Illusions Theatre production of Lewis Carroll's classic looks good and runs just under an hour.


Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" is compressed to just under an hour's time in the Illusions Theatre company production. And while it's not up to their recent rendition of "Winnie the Pooh," it'll do as a quick trip through the wonders of "Alice."

Kelly Lamar is featured as the young girl who winds up in the upside-down world of Wonderland; in this version, she follows a whole corps of white rabbits instead of the traditional one. Once in Wonderland, she encounters the caterpillar (Glenn Emanuel), Red Queen (Maura Emanuel), Cheshire cat (Karen Moncharsh) and those gathered for the Mad Tea Party.

Director Elizabeth Ridenour, who also adapted the story, takes several liberties. Working with a smaller cast than usual, she still has not only expanded the number of bunnies, but offers two sets of Tweedledums and Tweedledees (Chris Smith, Chris Babayco, Marty Babayco, Flavia Garza); costumer Kim Stroud dresses them dissimilarly, thus voiding the whole point of the characters. To many, the slinky-dancing Moncharsh may be more reminiscent of Catwoman in "Batman" than Carroll's enigmatic feline, and the rabbits' entrance--a nice surprise--has nothing to do with any rabbits ever seen on or under Earth.

Quite a bit of fun, but for the pedantry of an overly literary reporter.

Cleverly, the audience enters the outdoor theater's seating area through a maze that Carroll might appreciate. The show looks good, includes lots of familiar music (and one original hoedown, "Do You Ever Wonder," by musical director Seabury Gould), and there are a few particularly nice scenes, none better or funnier than the aforementioned Tea Party, featuring Craig Smith (again!) as the Mad Hatter, Marty Babayco (again!) as the March Hare, and Chris Babayco (again!) as the Dormouse.

One might wonder how much any of this will mean to members of the audience unfamiliar with the original "Alice." Perhaps accompanying parents should be prepared to offer a running explanation. On the other hand, the kids might find the colorful costumes, handsome set and busy activity engrossing enough; adults can always enjoy the music, which ranges from the Beatles to "Hair."


"Alice in Wonderland" concludes this weekend at Libbey Bowl in Libbey Park, on Ojai Avenue in Ojai. Performances are Saturday at 5 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 5 p.m. Tickets are $6.50; $4 for seniors and children. Reservations are unnecessary. For group rates or further information, call 646-3533 or 646-6387.

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