Photo by Gavin CarltonIf there's a classic work of literature in need of goosing, it's Alice in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll's 19th-century children's tale—rife with such veddy-veddy English events as tea parties and croquet games—really doesn't hold up well among suburban American kids raised on video games, vert ramps and Truly Tasteless Jokes. In the 137 years since it was first published, there have been scores of reworkings, satirizations and blasphemizations of Alice. Now comes Gavin Carlton, who adapted and directed this amped-up version at Stages, transforming Carroll's sweet, pure, innocent, virginal little Alice into a Robitussin-chugging, Ecstasy-popping, Catholic-school-going, rave-hopping lesbo freak. Awesome! Carlton's keenest coup: tapping into rave culture, since raves (particularly the annual Nocturnal Wonderland massives) have been forever borrowing Carroll's characters and imagery in the form of everything from stage names and dcor to costumes and flier art. And so the rabbit hole into which Alice falls turns out to be the name of a graffiti-plastered rave club, and the Mad Tea Party—hosted not by the Mad Hatter, but the Mad Rapper—goes off atop a gargantuan speaker that would give your average drum-and-basshead a stiffie. Carlton contemporizes the tale in other witty ways. The White Rabbit becomes Rabbit, Alice's schoolmate girlfriend, who's upset in the beginning because Alice is afraid to proclaim their love publicly, which forms the basis of the very loose queer-positive, be-happy-with-who-you-are plot (naturally, Alice is out and proud by the end. Alice falling through the closet door? Not quite, but close). The hookah-smoking Caterpillar becomes a frat dude named Pillar, who sucks away on a big-ass bong. The Mock Turtle is a pompous, black-clad coffeehouse poet. The White Knight is a bum straddling a hobby horse. Tweedledee and Tweedledum become a pair of bumbling cops. The croquet match becomes a round of miniature golf (which isn't really modern enough—why not an intense PlayStation tourney instead?). And there's the one constant that this and all versions of Alice must share: there are fucking drugs everywhere!
As they ought to with a delicious romp like this, the cast has a great time with the material, even though it often feels so fast-paced that you sometimes wonder if those are pretend medicinals everybody's chawing down on. Best is Tracy Perdue in the lead, whose Alice comes off brilliantly—if there's a category for Obnoxious, Giggly Twat Portrayals at the next OC Weekly theater awards, start carving her name on the trophy. It's waaay over-the-top, but so's everything else about Alice.
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Alice at Stages Theatre, 400 E. Commonwealth, Fullerton, (714) 525-4484; www.stagesentertainment.com. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. Through June 15. $12-$15.