Encore Michigan

Clowning around at Parallel 45’s ‘Alice’

Review March 02, 2017 Tom Emmott
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – Winters in Traverse City, MI and Parallel 45 Theatre productions have a number of things in common. They are both unpredictable, full of surprises, and always changing.

I drove through a raging snowstorm to get to the theatre –a storm that had been raging all day. But it didn’t keep the audience away, because this production company has a reputation for coming at you full force, just like the wind that was blowing outside. And yet, their productions are like rays of sunshine. They warm the soul. They also provoke laughter and amazement and deep thought. They are cutting edge. They redesign familiar stories and turn them upside down and inside out.

Director Noah Durham Fried has taken the classic tale of Alice In Wonderland and created a 60-minute- plus romp originally made famous by Andre Gregory and the Manhattan Project. And in order to do this he
engaged the talents of 5 versatile actors and the assistance of Victor Quezada-Perez, clowning consultant. Together they perform magic!

“What is a clown if not the embodiment of playfulness, discovery, vulnerability and joy”, Fried says. The same can be used to describe a child, I say. And that child still lies within all of us. The clowning
style used in Alice is referred to as French clown.

Clown work is demanding. It requires muscularity. It also requires intimacy and strong trust among actors. Shelby Lewis (Alice), and Ben Whiting, Nick Viox, Mikaela Gould and Sarah Bielman, who make up the ensemble, are the embodiment of that muscularity, intimacy and trust. Throw in a whole lot of talent and you have Alice In Wonderland like you’ve never seen it.

All of the characters are there. Shelby Lewis plays Alice with awkward girlish movements as well a being the bratty, whiney kid. She is delightful to watch as she goes through the paces spurred on by the classic Wonderland characters. Her facial expressions and body language are priceless.

Whiting, Voix, Gould, and Bielman are ever present and all masters of “movement and shenanigans.” They are very talented and disciplined actors who put out a tremendous amount of energy and are always in the moment. They deserve much credit.

Combined, these 5 amazing actors take us through a tale of Alice that will keep you laughing, guessing, surprised, and even saying –”Wait a minute. Where did that come from in the story that I know so well.” And that’s the beauty of this production. It is and it isn’t the story that you think you know.

Much credit is due to Movement Coordinator Jody Burns, Set Designer Christopher Dills, Lighting Designer Brian Elston,Technical Director Chris Largent, Production Designer Brittany Merenda and Costume Designer Jane Scott. They produce the magical Wonderland that the characters inhabit and visited by Alice. Credit also needs to be given to Artistic Director Kit McKay for holding this whole production together.

Director Noah Durham Fried said it well: “For the next hour, I invite you to join us for a glimpse into the mind of a child.”

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Week of 5/23/2022

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