By Randi Bjornstad
“Alice in Wonderland” will be onstage this weekend as Fred Crafts’ Radio Redux continues its season of recreating old-time radio plays for up-to-the-minute audiences.
Lewis Carroll’s mind-bending story of a young girl who follows a mysterious white rabbit underground to a wild-and-crazy, even a bit sinister world peopled by characters ruled by a capricious and irascible queen whose subjects range from rabbits, mice and strange human characters to a hookah-puffing caterpillar and a perpetually grinning cat with the added talent to disappear and reappear at will.
“ ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is often considered a children’s story, but that’s not really true,” said Fred Crafts, the founder and executive director of the theater company.
Since Carroll — his real name was Charles Dodgson — wrote the story 151 years ago, some critics have analyzed it for possible allusions to sex, drugs, food, psychoanalysis and even humor, but most conclude that Carroll, who stammered severely except when entertaining children with his stories, merely wanted to create an especially entertaining tale for Alice Liddell, the daughter of a close friend.
Jane Brinkley, a freshman at South Eugene High School, plays the title role. She has appeared previously with Radio Redux, first in “It’s a Wonderful Life” and earlier this year as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.”
Brinkley shares the stage with many of Radio Redux’s regular performers, who often take on multiple characters in each radio play.
The troupe that recreates classic radio shows mostly from the 1940s and ‘50s and performs them for what back then would have been a radio station’s studio audience has hit its stride, Crafts said, consistently attracting nearly full houses that combine curious newcomers with a solid number of repeat customers.
The Radio Redux version of “Alice in Wonderland” first aired on the well-known Lux Radio Theater on Christmas Eve in 1951.
The production also offers a free pre-show lecture by historian Patrick Lucanio and a meet-and-greet with cast members after the show.
At first, Radio Redux — “radio worth watching,” as Crafts is fond of saying — attracted mostly an older audience who view the mystery and magic of radio shows with nostalgia. They still come, but especially since the move to the Hult Center at Willamette Street and Seventh Avenue in downtown Eugene, Crafts said, the shows also have begun to attract a younger, more eclectic audience.
“Younger people’s ideas of radio are very different,” he said. “We’ve been getting an audience with way more variety — college age, young professionals, people bringing their parents or their kids along and more ‘tats’ and piercings and Mohawks than ever before — and we love it.”
Tickets are $22 for adults, $19 for people 65 years and older and $15 for students, available at the door or in advance at the Hult Center box office, 541-682-5000, or online at hultcenter.org or radioreduxusa.com/.