The Milk Can Theatre Company clearly likes a challenge. It prides itself on producing works that combine language, emotion, story, and audience to create a unique theatrical experience. It embraces the possibilities of heightened language and emotion, and it believes in works that tell a story and engage the audience. So it is odd that the company would choose Anne Phelan's Mushroom in Her Hands, a rehash of Alice in Wonderland written as a series of disjointed vignettes. According to the playwright's muddy program note, Mushroom in Her Hands is Phelan's speculation about what might have happened between Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) and his young muse, Alice Liddell. The play opens promisingly with an intriguingly perverse scene between Dodgson and Alice involving hidden candy and Dodgson's trousers. But the potential of this psychologically fascinating and sordid relationship is quickly squandered in favor of creepy suggestions and awkward flirtation.
There are no transitions in this play. Dodgson quickly disappears and then some lights change and then Alice sniffs something and before you can say "through the looking glass," Alice is in Wonderland. She soon meets up with the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, etc. With each character she meets, Alice learns new and fun facts about her body, her sexuality, and the dark side of desire. Yet for all its early promise and speculation, Phelan's imagination comes up with little more than an amateurish, pseudo-sexual Freudian acid trip.
The cast of four enthusiastically make the best of what they have been given, collectively taking on 15 roles. Under Julie Fei-Fan Balzer's capable direction, the actors are let loose to play. Jessi Gotta perfectly captures the innocence and impudence of 14-year-old Alice. She takes a flat character and gives it dimension while maintaining Alice's precocious na