Hustle Alice out of Wonderland and into a hard five-to-10 at Chino, and you'd be ready for a walk in Promenade, a hilariously surreal take on two escaped convicts' out-of-control spin through modern society. Kevin Kiler and Martin Swoverland (inmate Nos. 105 and 106, respectively) are orange-suited versions of that winsome little blond girl: innocents who escape down a rabbit hole into a grotesque world jam-packed with idiotic rich people, clueless military personnel, villainous government officials and head-bashing police officers, and it's as take-no-prisoners as satire gets.
UC Irvine graduate and director Colette Searls' amazing production of Maria Irene Fornes and Al Carmines' viciously funny musical should serve as living proof to all local theaters—from black box to mainstage—that a little imagination goes a lot further than money when it comes to working miracles. Everything from Jurney Jungim Suh's sumptuous primary-colors-and-disembodied-limbs set design to Chrissie Munich's Christmas-in-hell lighting to Dennis Castellano's toe-tapping musical direction to Julienne Hastings' so-ugly-they're-freakin'-works-of-art costumes and Christine Zimmerman's relentlessly inventive choreography deserves special recognition (which, we'd like to think, it just got).
Of course, with so much to look at, listen to and think about, it's inevitable that not everything works: the opening scenes with the Mayor (Chris Smith, by way of Jack Nicholson's Joker) play like a warm-up act, and while author Fornes' hit-you-over-the-head lyrics are laugh-out-loud funny, they're sometimes more manifesto than music.
Not that I'm complaining. Some sentiments never go out of style. As Searls and company mock authority, lampoon the wealthy and celebrate antisocial criminal activity, you'll feel right at home—and George W., the Enron debacle, and the World Trade Organization demonstrations won't be far from your thoughts.
Promenade at UC Irvine's Studio Theatre, University Dr. and Mesa Rd., Irvine, (949) 824-2787. Thurs.-Fri., March 7-8, 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m. $7-$10.