Wonderland Revisited

The Gesher Theater’s ‘Alice,’ based on the life of Lewis Carroll and his young muse, is fascinating theater, and Efrat Ben Zur’s music makes the experience even more compelling.

Daniel Kaminsky

After a quarter of a century, Yevgeny Arye, artistic director of the Gesher Theater, appears to have found another artistic kernel that was planted in the fertile soil of his company and is now sprouting in a thrilling way. Writer and translator Roee Chen (the wonderful “The Adventures of Odysseus”), has been the theater’s dramaturge in recent years. Yehezkel Lazarov, who started out as a dancer and choreographer, later became an actor (at Gesher, but mainly at the Cameri) and is now also a director and adaptor of plays (the unique “Falling Out of Time” based on the book by David Grossman).

Together, Chen and Lazarov – who also did the set design – have created “Alice,” an enchanting theatrical event based on the life and work of Lewis Carroll and his relationship with the young girl Alice Liddell (of whom he also took artistic nude photographs when she was young). “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” are not virgin territory (the program cites a very partial list of more than 30 works inspired by these books) but Chen and Lazarov have given the story a visual and psychoanalytical twist that, even if not all that surprising or innovative, is quite impressive.

Viewers entering the Gesher Theater find themselves in a rectangular space that exists on an imaginary plane different from the one in which they are actually sitting. White borders that surround the stage and the audience create a distorted perspective. The first part of the play centers on young Alice’s (Bar Sade) encounter with an adult friend who is very witty and charming (Doron Tavori, as Carroll). Alice feels that she’s fallen into a hole and come out on the other side of the world, where people are walking upside-down. Carroll-Tavori stands on his head beside her and convinces her that she’s the one who’s upside down, not him. He turns her on her head, thus revealing to us (and to him) her childish-style underwear. In that moment, the innocent play takes on a pedophilic twist.

The great virtue of this adaptation (in addition to the sense that it is a complex piece of work accomplished with much thought, taste and ability) is that it gives the plot a multifold interpretation – as a tale of the development of Alice’s femininity, as a universal tale of human growing-up, and as a fascinating interpretation of the details of the book.

Carroll is also the White Horse; Tweedledee and Tweedledum are the psychologists who treat the teenage Alice (Neta Shpigelman), who has developed a drug habit, as she keeps growing and shrinking (and a huge puppet of her appears above the action); Humpty Dumpty (Alex Sandrovich) is also the husband of Alice the grown woman (the superb Efrat Ben Zur, who also wrote the excellent music), and the Mad Hatter’s tea party and the trial held by the playing cards are where her complicated life with her parents (Lillian Ruth and Boris Akhanov) plays out.

Daniel Kaminsky

This is a complex, lovely and thought-provoking work. It all adds up to a beautiful theatrical experience that truly stirs the heart and the mind.

The next performances of “Alice” will be staged at Gesher Theater on June 1, 2 and 3 at 20.00.