Double Date

Curiouser and curiouser

Enjoy the wonder of the ART’s ‘Alice’ and then have a little tea party at UpStairs on the Square

Jordy Lievers (standing center) in ‘‘Alice vs. Wonderland.’’ Jordy Lievers (standing center) in ‘‘Alice vs. Wonderland.’’ (Anastasia Korotich)
By Luke O'Neil
Globe Correspondent / September 17, 2010

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There have been so many interpretations of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’’ over the years, it’s easy to lose track of where the original ends and the adaptations take off. That’s a question of fluid identity that would likely appeal to Brendan Shea, author of “Alice vs. Wonderland,’’ opening this weekend at the American Repertory Theater.

The adaptation tells the story “through the perspective of an older Alice, age 13 to 14,’’ explains Shea. “Because the story is about the dream of an older Alice, it’s going to look different than the dream of a 7-year-old in Victorian England.’’ Shea’s Alice is a contemporary teenager whose dreams are saturated by pop culture. “It deals with a lot more adult issues, more angst, things that young people today relate to.’’

The shape those dreams take is a largely musical production, sort of Carroll meets Lady Gaga. “It’s about the experience of us looking back on our own teenage years and relating to Alice in that way.’’ Six different actresses play the role of Alice, a decision that reflects the questions of identity inherent in coming of age. “It’s to show the different aspects of a girl and her consciousness going through this journey,’’ Shea says. “Every time she eats or drinks, instead of getting bigger or smaller, she changes her identity, her physical being. The effect it has is it paints this mosaic-like portrait of a modern teenage girl and a teenage identity crisis.’’

“Alice vs. Wonderland,’’ Saturday, 2 p.m., 7:30 p.m. $15. Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle St., Cambridge. 617-547-8300.

Of course, one of the most iconic scenes from Alice’s story is the Mad Hatter’s tea party.

At the nearby UpStairs on the Square, the popular Saturday afternoon tea sittings might not qualify as “mad’’ per se, but they’re certainly the funkiest in town, says co-owner Mary-Catherine Deibel. It’s not your grandmother’s tea, in other words, although she’ll probably enjoy it too.

“We give you beautiful service, but at the same time, it’s not a super-attenuated kind of English tea, what you think of as kind of snooty,’’ says Deibel. “It’s an organic, wonderful thing. And it’s an affordable way to get an artisanal meal.’’ That meal consists of an assortment of sweet and savory options, like hot dates wrapped in bacon, brown raisin bread with cream cheese, cucumber sandwiches, blini with smoked salmon, lemon tarts, milk chocolate praline turtles, and eclairs. Just don’t be late.

Up Stairs on the Square, 91 Winthrop St., Cambridge. 617-864-1933.

Luke O’Neil can be reached at