When I was a kid, I watched the made-for-tv Alice in Wonderland dozens of times. It was one of my favorite movies. It had incredible characters, including cameos from celebrities like Ringo Star. My parents recorded the film from the TV onto a VHS. I traveled along with Alice, eating Oreos while she bit into her "Eat Me" cake and grew and grew. Every time I watched the movie, I was transported somewhere else.
I had a similar yet evolved experience the minute I entered Greenpoint Hospital in Brooklyn, the stage for Then She Fell.
I arrived a bit late, after enjoying some vodka with a couple of Russians down the street and things immediately became more sober, as a nurse greeted me and gave the rules of the show. I followed a hallway that spilled out to a room that seemed to be a hospital waiting area. A doctor entered, sat down at a desk and began speaking over a PA, providing more rules, "No opening doors." "No speaking unless spoken to." "Relock anything you unlock with the key you have been given." He then spoke on the topic of liminality—occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold. He spoke of falling, falling in love, falling sick, falling out of love as we were guided out of the room in pairs.
Following a nurse, I, with another audience member found ourselves in a small bedroom where the nurse instructed us to lay down on a twin bed. I thought, for a moment, how odd it was to lay in a twin bed with a total stranger, and then thought, "Excellent! This is going to be totally crazy."
A blonde woman, who was already in the room, sitting at a small desk, the White Queen, asked us to close our eyes and began to tell a story about a girl, presumably Alice, falling in love. But, Alice, only being able to see into the future and not the past and not experience the present, was bored with the relationship, because she already knew what would happen. And by the conclusion of the relationship, she'd already known the love story and in the end, didn't even know who her lover was. This idea of knowing the outcome before an event has happened is a motif presented in Through the Looking Glass. Cakes are passed out before being cut, characters remember the future and think best standing on their heads. What an imaginative universe I had just entered into!
The White Queen left me and my stranger bedmate and in came the Mad Hatter. He drank an elixir that he made for himself in front of us. After his drink, he danced all over the room, on shelves, feet on the ceiling, clearly going mad. After collecting a couple of items from the bureau, he led us out of the room and called back to me "Close the door." I turned to close the door and when I went to face the direction of the Mad Hatter, I was redirected to a creepy hallway with a chair and table.
The doctor peeked out of a room and lay out a deck of cards. "We're going to play poker." I became anxious. I don't know how to play poker. But, he guided me through it. We were playing to determine which employee of the hospital would be sent away to the Red Queen, at her request.
He stacked the deck and I came away with the winning hand. I was to be sent to the queen. Off I went, directed to a room where the Red Queen danced, madly, and furiously. There were three of us at this point, and we were invited in when she saw us and offered a drink.
This series of imaginative, unnerving, sometimes confusing, and wonderful scenes continued for the next two hours. I had an intimate conversation with Alice about regret. I watched as Alice and Lewis Carroll danced together. I was delighted to watch two Alices watch one another and mimic the other's movement through a looking glass.
I dictated a letter for the Mad Hatter, a letter to Mr. Carroll about Alice. Moving from room to room, observing and participating, piecing together a letter I'd been given, enjoying treats, watching stories unfold as if I weren't there, but then being invited in as a character. It was like I was a child, once again, sitting in my family's living room, joining Alice on her adventure.
At the conclusion of the show, I walked out onto the street, reluctantly thrust back into the real world.