This event, up and running in half a dozen cities, has found its way to the basement of Pekarna Restaurant (terrific- review to come) in Manhattan on 89th and Amsterdam. Though genial, it’s not quite as billed and looks much more low budget than expected.
Beautiful photography enhances publicity photos of a long narrow room (about eight tables) which, though it has a few wonderful props (half of Alice’s body hanging down through the ceiling, an enormous Cheshire Cat mouth and eyes, giant playing cards), is mostly cobbled together with seemingly little intimate knowledge of or real attention to Lewis Carroll’s books: A trophy swordfish, cuckoo and office clocks which show no attempt to replicate period or fantasy, mushroom variations printed on what looks like a kitchen tablecloth, blue?! plastic flamingos, white faux flowers – neither roses nor red…
Music as we’re seated is Bing Crosby singing ‘Magic Moments.” Later, we hear Grace Slick singing “White Rabbit.” Really, with all the music available?
The Mad Hatter – well costumed up to his waist then casual contemporary, March Hare – the same, and a characterless waitress, representing the White Rabbit with only ears to manifest her character, welcome us. Hatter and Hare, benign and manic, work very hard to entertain, explaining and hinting so things move smoothly. Much seems ad-libbed along storyline. There’s not a single quote from and next to no reference to the actual books – a vastly missed opportunity.
At one point the actor playing the Hare becomes the Red Queen in a costume replete with red high heels epitomizing its modern meaning. He has fun with this. Note: the often suggestive and raunchy version I saw is not for children. One assumes they clean it up and don’t serve alcohol should you book for youngsters.
In the course of just over 60 minutes advertised as 90, we’re served two and a half cocktails of such sweetness your mouth will pucker and a single “Eat Me” sugar cookie. There’s no water on the tables. The first drink arrives in a shot glass. The second is cleverly concocted by combining three small bottles of colored liquids (earned by answering riddles, a successful part of the evening) emptied into a tea pot that erupts in smoke and is then poured over ice. The third arrives frothing with a contest. When a tart is stolen, the room must decide who did it.
Perhaps because of the holiday, we were few in the room and readily interacted with one another. THAT part can be fun. All in all, however, this might be considerably better.
Photography courtesy of the production