Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: SEPTEMBER 4, 2009
It’s a bona fide female fantasy. I don’t think there’s a woman alive who hasn’t at one time or another wished all men would just disappear. And that’s just what happens in “Drink Me, or The Strange Case of Alice Times Three.” A political/historical/feminist riff on ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ an homage to noir detectives and English murder mysteries, the deliciously dark comedy is set in modern-day London, where men are going missing by the thousands. At first, it’s just the vagrants and homeless. But then, the horror extends – into the best of homes.
Chief Inspector Fossmire is on the case. But it leads him in some pretty surprising directions, including right back to his own doorstep. I can’t give too much away – it is a mystery, after all – but factor in a distraught anthropologist, a troubled psychologist, and three weird sisters who speak in arcane, antiquated English and express themselves by singing nursery rhymes. Then there’s Fossie’s own mother, a titled aristocrat who has some off-the-wall philosophies, and a few bleak secrets in her past.
Plenty of witchy women on hand, with more than a little black magic and goddess worship. Fossie is mystified, even unnerved. And he also seems to be oddly protected. It all comes out in the end, though I wouldn’t exactly call it a happy wrap-up.
This is the second play produced by Moxie Theatre that’s written by Mary Fengar Gail, who has a penchant for strong, forthright women who take control, not always with positive outcomes. Gail likes to toss in a bit of the whimsical, fantastical or other-worldly. Think of it as magical realism, which makes her work delightfully quirky, offbeat and unpredictable. Moxie seems to be in perfect synch with her sensibilities.
This West coast premiere marks the beginning of Moxie’s residency at the La Jolla Playhouse, and the technical capabilities that makes available definitely ramp up the production values. The set is a bi-level affair flanked by winding staircases, lit in sepia tones. Furniture glides effortlessly on and off. And there are boatloads of buttons, which are the only thing left when the victims vanish.
It’s great fun, if a little chilling in its undertone. Moxie co-founders and co-directors Delicia Turner Sonnenberg and Jennifer Eve Thorn have created a thoroughly enchanting production, with a superb ensemble. Those triplets are especially unforgettable – eternally entwined, infantile and dangerous. Tantalizing, titillating and cheerfully wicked.
Beneath the cheeky exuberance, there’s plenty to ponder here, about female power, the occult and overpopulation.
Come with an open mind, ready to be amused, entertained and unsettled. This is a strange case, indeed.
“Drink Me, or The Strange Case Of Alice Times Three ” runs through September 27 at the La Jolla Playhouse.
©2009 PAT LAUNER