‘Wonder Tierra’ mixes best of Lewis Carroll, Oz

Posted by on September 17, 2007 in News

‘Wonder Tierra’ mixes best of Lewis Carroll, Oz

‘Wonder Tierra’ mixes best of Lewis Carroll, Oz
12:53 PM CDT on Monday, September 17, 2007
By LAWSON TAITTE / Theater Critic

You could hardly ask for a better way to spend Mexican independence day than watching Alicia in Wonder Tierra.

Mike Stone / Special to DMN
Rosaura Cruz and Amanda Fae Elrod explore a fantastical dreamland in Alicia in Wonder Tierra. Cara Mia Theatre Company is performing this family show by Silvia Gonzalez S., appropriately enough, at the Rosewood Center for Family Arts (the home of Dallas Children’s Theater). It’s all about understanding – and loving – one’s cultural roots.

Alicia in Wonder Tierra, as the name suggests, is a loose adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s two Alice books – but it also owes at least as much to The Wizard of Oz. Alicia, an adolescent Mexican-American who doesn’t speak a word of Spanish, reluctantly visits a shop dedicated to Hispanic arts – all the while agitating for a later stop by the mall.

Vaguely browsing through a back room, she climbs up to examine a piece of pottery. She falls, breaking the pottery and conking herself out.

For nearly two hours, she follows various figures through a dreamland that introduces her to Mexican culture. Ms. Gonzalez’s play never really finds a strong enough structure to keep us feeling that it is moving forward, but is inventive moment to moment.

It takes us through an Aztec temple on the way to find the mysterious pottery maker who will set all to rights. It also shows us a farm where mattresses are stuffed with chickens, a party where everyone must sing a Linda Ronstadt song before menudo can be served, and a talking cactus. Alicia’s vision of her dad offering her his favorite dish gives the play its subtitle, I Can’t Eat Goat Head.

Alicia chases an armadillo and a horny toad the way Alice chases her White Rabbit. She also befriends a marionette with a broken trumpet, who hopes the pottery maker will help her the way Oz’s wizard gives the Cowardly Lion his courage.

Director John M. Flores has found a cast that gives all these figures plenty of charm. Rosaura Cruz doesn’t stint on Alicia’s initial brattiness, but she makes the girl entirely sympathetic. Liza Marie Gonzalez lends Alicia’s exasperated mother grace and warmth.

Laura Orange, a prominent mime performer, shows she can also act hilariously with her voice – one with a decided Mississippi accent – as the Armadilla as well as the fast-talking Aztec priest and a grand Spanish lady reminiscent of Carroll’s Red Queen.

Stella Romero is outstanding as the storekeeper and other figures notable for their wisdom. Amanda Fae Elrod as the puppet and Bryan Pitts as the horned toad make lovable foils for the heroine.