Theatre Review: ‘Alice in Wonderland’ at Aurora Players

The Cast of “Alice In Wonderland” at Aurora Players. Photo by Dori Shear-McGowan.

This summer, Aurora Players is presenting a free outdoor production of “Alice in Wonderland” in the pavilion in Hamlin Park in East Aurora. The script, which includes scenes from both Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”” and Through the Looking Glass”, was written by Alice Gerstenberg in 1915.

. . .a pleasant way to celebrate summer in Western New York!

The challenge in adapting the Alice books for the stage is that Alice is essentially an episodic piece. Some adaptations impose a through line so that it becomes a story about Alice wanting to find the White Rabbit to give him back the fan and gloves or a story about Alice wanting to find her way home. This adaptation doesn’t attempt a through line, however, so it’s a play with witty dialogue and colorful characters but a vague plot.

This is a large and ambitious project for such a small stage. Scenery and prop changes are taken care of nicely by director John Szablewski’s prodigious use of the four Playing Cards (Chris Biggie, Danielle Burning, Jennifer McWhirl, and Samantha Zak). The cards pop up all over Wonderland — even providing inventive touches for Bob Bozek’s amusing rendition of “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” Interestingly, all the Playing Cards are the Ace of Hearts. So – are we playing with four decks?

Kelsey Giampoala is a lovely Alice, although when she said she was seven years old, the child sitting behind me said, “That lady’s not 7!” Ms. Giampoala plays Alice as consistently being on the verge of tears. Poor Alice! One would hope that she would have at least a little fun in Wonderland.

My personal favorite in the cast was Mike Starzynski who was a wonderful Humpty Dumpty and also was very committed (even when he was sitting in the back row of the jury) to being a stoned Caterpillar.

Since this is a production for children and families, I interviewed a group of kids during intermission to ask them what they thought about the show. The kids enjoyed it and especially liked the appropriately off beat denizens of the tea party – the Mad Hatter (Rick Lattimer), the March Hare (Dan Morris) , and “that little mousey” (Len Mendez who is adorable as the Dormouse).

Mary Loliger is an energetic White Rabbit, David Hall is funny as the easily baffled King of Hearts, and Shelby Eberling masters the spooky quality of the Cheshire Cat. Bob Bozek is entertaining as a dim witted frog, and he also, impressively, plays both Tweedles – shades of Sally Fields as Sybil!

Dan Barone has an original take on the Knave of Hearts. Here, he is a tough guy complete with heart shaped eye patch.

The royal ladies – Gail Stengel, Alyssa Walsh, Lilllian Edmunds, and Jessica K. Rasp –give it their all and bring a lot of pizzazz to the production.

Costumer Callie Bush has done a terrific job! There are impressively huge wigs, gorgeous gowns, and lots of creative touches like the Caterpillar’s arms, the Knave’s gloves, and, especially, Humpty’s legs.

“Alice in Wonderland” runs 95 minutes, including a 15 minute intermission. This is on the long side for a children’s show. The good news is that the park is lovely, the show is free, and the town of East Aurora is a great place to spend a weekend afternoon and evening. We went early, got a convenient parking space, walked the few blocks into town, did some shopping, and had a very nice dinner at one of the town’s many charming restaurants. And we ended the day with this enthusiastic community theatre production of “Alice in Wonderland” in Hamlin Park. What a pleasant way to celebrate summer in Western New York!

Running Time: 95 minutes with one 15 minute intermission.

“Alice in Wonderland” is produced by Aurora Players Theatre In Hamlin Park and is presented on the Roycroft Bandstand in Hamlin Park. The Show runs July 8, 21, 22, August 4, 5, 18, 19. For more information, click here.