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Welcome to ‘Alice’ in adulthood

September 21, 2010

Published by Metro

Besides uncomfortable clothing, pop personality Lady Gaga and Victorian period literature don’t have much overlap. And yet, Brendan Shea combines them seamlessly in American Repertory Theater’s psychedelic new production, “Alice vs. Wonderland.”

“It’s sort of a mash-up of two things that are very familiar,” says Shea, recent A.R.T. graduate and writer of the “Alice in Wonderland” contemporary remix.

The 14-year-old Alice in Shea’s show is older than the original, and lives in a much different time.

“This is a story about what it means to grow up in the 20th or 21st centuries,” Shea explains. “It’s very much immersed in pop culture, teen angst, Radiohead, stuff like that.”

Although Shea did stick with the original “Wonderland” characters, audiences shouldn’t come in expecting a show like the familiar Disney adaptation. Even the actors had trouble disconnecting from the singsong-y movie during their first script read last December.

“Everybody did a wacky Disney character type,” admits Jordy Lievers, who plays the Queen of Hearts in the show. “Our director [János Szász] said ‘OK, I’m glad we have this background, but that is not what this show is going to be.’”

Each revamped character represents an obstacle in Alice’s life.

“This is definitely not a kids show,” says Shea. “This Alice is on the verge of adulthood. That means more adult, grown-up problems.”

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