Hey Alice: We're all mad here

by Simon de Carvalho '14

Lady Gaga is taking over the world. This is a fact. Case in point: at least two Harvard sponsored productions this year are modern takes on classics that are heavily inspired by the woman this writer thinks is the best thing to happen to mainstream pop in, like, forever.

One of these productions is the Gaga-inspired Chicago, premiering December 6 at Club Oberon and apparently featuring—yes!—a runway that comes out of the stage for a fashion show.

The other is American Repertory Theater’s Alice vs. Wonderland adapted by Brendan Shea and running through Oct. 9 at the Loeb Drama Center.

A large sign outside the door to the theater warned, "We’re all mad here," and that was spot-on. Consider:

  • Tweedledee and Tweedledum had one of my favorite exchanges of the play. Dee, as she’s called, contends that she is "the most famous twin," to which Dum (she prefers to be called Francesca) replies, "Well, I’m the indie cool one."
  • The play is inspired by Gaga, but the show features Radiohead’s "Creep" multiple times. No complaints here.
  • On a related note, the one Lady Gaga song the company does do is the Queen of Hearts’ rendition of "Pokerface."
  • There are six—six—actresses playing Alice. Each Alice represents a facet of teenage life.

The costumes were clearly where the Gaga influence played a major role. The Queen of Hearts looks like a taller, more evil version of Gaga herself, dressed in black leather and a deep red dress with a billowing tail that she frequently thwacks with her, uh, thwacking instrument. She is a dominatrix, and this role comes complete with an almost entirely nude (save for very small black underwear and a collar and bow tie) manservant. The character is reminiscent of the eight-minute odyssey that is the video for Lady Gaga’s "Alejandro."

The various Alices wear brightly colored leggings, t-shirts and hoodies, plus a backpack with the heroine’s ever-so-trusty Macbook, and, of course, a skateboard.

By far my favorite costume of the night was the Mad Hatter’s, who rocks in his purple t-shirt, purple pinstriped blazer, lime green sneakers, a pair of entirely-too-skimpy lime green spandex short-shorts, a black top hat and a zebra-print scarf.

These costumes map personalities, and these were the personalities that drive the story. But the plot takes a backseat to the visual and emotional aspects of the play. There are the same wacky encounters with the Cheshire Cat and the Queen of Hearts as in the original, but this version of the story is more psychological—cerebral, even. The Alices are teenagers: They are me, and they are you (well, some of you), and they are searching for identities. The repeated use of "Creep" speaks to this: perhaps we’re all creeps; maybe we’re all weirdos; we’re certainly all mad. And that’s OK.

One of the Alices, after having spent time in Wonderland, comments: "You guys are crazy!"

"You mean like we’re hilarious and fun, right?" replies the Hatter.

Yes. That.

[Caption: Alice vs. Wonderland. Photo: Anastasia Korotich]

[Caption: (yes, we are)]

[Caption: Alice vs. Wonderland. Photo: Anastasia Korotich]

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