When you first enter the stage area at the Liminis Theatre (where Convergence-Continuum is currently producing “Lobster Alice”) it is a bit intimidating. There are twenty-seven seats on risers in two rows that run the length of the long wall. This puts you very close to the action at all times. You almost feel as if you should have a drafting table in front of you in order to give furtive glances over the top of the angled drawing board at the goings on in this recreation of the 30’s Walt Disney Illustrators’ office. As the play begins the action takes place literally right in front of your nose…and there is a lot of action.
Alice Horowitz (Sarah Maria Hess) arrives first on the scene. She is the assistant to John Finch (Tim Coles) who is one of the head illustrators for Walt Disney Studios. The year is 1936. Alice is full of life and wants to experience “everything”. John, on the other hand, is secretly in love with Alice but is too reserved to do anything about it. Thus, their workaday life consists of her ship sending signals while he fishes off the back of his boat not realizing that the prize catch is sitting right in front of him. John’s current project is the animated feature film, “Alice In Wonderland” and it is not going well. Mr. Disney feels the work thus far is too “vanilla”. Another characteristic of the two is that they live and breathe animation to the point that they act and talk much like cartoon characters. Everything they say or do is done broader and wider than necessary.
Enter Salvador Dali (Grey Cross) who has been granted complete control over a project to create a short animated film based on the 30’s popular song, “Destino” or “You Tempt Me” (this is a true story). He has six weeks in order to produce the work. In the course of the first five weeks, Dali has other plans then to work on his project. He makes it his mission to infuse life and excitement into these two star-crossed lovers. The play is an invention of what might have happened.
This production has a lot going for it. To begin with, Sarah Maria Hess as Alice brings a tremendous amount of energy and fun to the part. Tim Coles as the straight laced John Finch is the perfect foil for her and Dali. Also included in the cast is the hard working Beau Reinker who plays Thorton, the Caterpillar, a very large rabbit and an aged janitor. Grey Cross as Dali is the real McCoy (mustache and all) as he puts the “flam” in flamboyant. In real life, Dali was a man of high integrity who tried never to lie to people and who lived his life in all extremes. Grey captures the essence to a T.
The set consists (from left to right for those of you playing at home) a small chalk board and cork board, Alice's desk with 1930's typewriter, rotary phone and coffee cut that says "Drink Me!". Behind her is a door to a break area, there is a small coffee table with a rug under it (this is later replaced by the "rabbit hole couch"), the main outside entrance to the office with a picture window to the right of it, John's drafting table with a small drawer table next to it and a coat rack at the far end. sprinkled over the wall behind them are various drawings in color and black and white showing various stages of completion.
The lighting by Lisa Wiley gives more depth to a small space and though minimalistic at first, the set design by Clyde Simon (who also did the sound design) is soon filled with Dali-ish props of unusualality that turns this mundane office into a living Dali painting. There is also discriminate use of video which adds to the storyline as well as a couch that serves as “the rabbit hole” where Alice eventually falls through to Wonderland. Add to this the numerous costume changes by all the cast and your attention will not waver from this fascinating play. For those familiar with the artist and his work, there are all kinds of “Touches de Dali” sprinkled throughout as well as references to Alice in Wonderland. In short it is a surrealistic stew that has been put on the boil for our pleasure to enjoy.
Prude Alert: There is some mild language but nothing to write the decency board about. There is some sexual reference but it is offhanded at best. I would rate this one PG-24.
Shooting From The Lip (My Last Words): Tired of winter? Can’t wait until you can put the three layers of clothing away? Convergence-Contiuum’s “Lobster Alice” is just the ticket to brush the late winter blues aways. Let Salvador Dali take you to a different and happier place (think bizarre) where you can forget about living in Cleveland for one evening. Afterwards, find a nice bar in the Tremont or Ohio City area to discuss the play over a bottle of good wine and as Dali would suggest, “…put a little seduction into your life.”
“Lobster Alice” will play through Saturday, April 5, 2014 and runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. at the Liminis, 2438 Scranton Rd., Cleveland, OH 44113 in the historic Tremont neighborhood.
Tickets are $15 general admission, $12 for seniors and $10 for students.
Reservations and information are available at convergence-continuum.org or 216-687-0074.
“Lobster Alice” is supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, and by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.