Herndon High School
Something new has tumbled into Wonderland… deep in the mushroom forest, mysterious fog is emerging from an even more mysterious blue police box. The door opens, and two strange-looking people step out. What could this be? Why, it’s Oakton High School’s production of The Doctor in Wonderland. As Alice might say, curiouser and curiouser.
The Doctor in Wonderland is a steampunk-style mashup play, combining the traditional whimsy of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland with the more modern zaniness of the BBC’s Doctor Who franchise. Both stories star curious characters that explore unfamiliar lands, but the similarities stop there. When Don Zolidis combined them into one parody play in 2016, it turned out to be a brilliant patchwork of both sci-fi and fairy-tale madness. The titular character (referred to as ‘Doctor What’ for copyright reasons, as he himself acknowledges) crash-lands in Wonderland and immediately finds himself facing the same obstacles as the famous Alice. But Oakton’s production proved that prior knowledge of either Wonderland or Doctor Who isn’t required to enjoy the absurdity of the story.
The show shimmered with earnestness and fizzed with excitement from the top of its head to the tips of its toes. Each and every character, from the drowsy DorMouse (Cameron Filson) to the wry Walrus (Ana Jankovic), came to life with deliberate detail. And acting as the catalyst for the entire tale was the shrewd, sarcastic Doctor, in a masterful performance from Rigley Mostafavi.
From the second Mostafavi strode, coughing, from the clouds of smoke surrounding his crashed ship, he commanded the stage. Whether arguing with his companion Cara (Kaitlyn McCarley) or with his own, inanimate time-traveling machine, he was brilliantly comical. At points he even entered the aisles and spoke directly to the audience, offering a charismatic smile. McCarley, too, displayed quick-witted delivery, never missing a beat as she and Mostafavi bantered over who was to blame for their predicament. This charming duo stood in contrast to the other, slightly wackier characters like colorful mushrooms in a field of wildflowers.
Representing the Wonderland side of things was Chrissy Baptista as the Red Queen, decked out in a grand gown of scarlet and satin. Her shrill singsong of a voice conducted the court scenes as she ordered about her card soldiers, but in private, she faded into a more humanistic figure. As she visited McCarley in prison, she plainly admitted that she merely pretended to be mad to appeal to her similarly mad subjects. In reality, she was quite sane, clever… and ruthless. Baptista executed both sides of the Queen with poise, bringing unexpected depth to Lewis Carroll’s familiar caricature.
The show burst with color and whimsy from all sides, with especial help from its background projections (William Ferreira). Ferreira’s work lit the stage in splashy turquoises and electric purples, easily transitioning from a dark, mysteriously mossy forest to the grand entrance of the Red Queen’s castle. The projections even moved along with Mostafavi as he wandered through the woods, helping to better illustrate the story and add motion to the show. Just as impressive was the work of the props department (Caroline Cochran, Prop Team), who built everything from real, extendible wings for Jankovic’s Walrus to a towering green Jabberwock that actually ate soldiers.
Unfortunately, every good story must come to an end, and Oakton’s production was no exception. As the curtain closed on Wonderland, the real world seemed a little bit drab- proving that every so often, it’s good to take such a whimsical, warm-hearted trip down the rabbit hole.
Westfield High School
“The world is full of adventure… let’s explore!” Oakton High School’s innovative rendition of The Doctor in Wonderland invites every Whovian to take a topsy-turvy trip down the rabbit hole and into the whimsical wilderness of Wonderland.
Written by Don Zolidis, The Doctor in Wonderland premiered at Cedar Valley Middle School in 2016. When a certain piece of intellectual property owned by the BBC crash lands in the Red Queen’s domain, the spinoff stars of Doctor Who — Doctor What and Cara — find themselves wedged within the story of Alice in Wonderland. As the dynamic duo detours and explores this eccentric realm, they encounter familiar fairytale faces: Mad Hatter, March Hare, and Red Queen, hell-bent as ever on head-hunting. Can this time-traveling twosome dodge the dangers of Wonderland and tend to their broken telephone booth before it's too late?
Lights flashed and fog lingered as our leading lad stepped onstage. With charm, Rigley Mostafavi brought a sophisticated wit to every scene as Doctor What. Whether recruiting audience members or roasting the lost-in-love Mock Turtle, Mostafavi was a captivating presence, drawing eyes even when everything else in Wonderland felt like a fever dream. Luckily, Dr. What wasn’t alone. Enter: Cara—she may not be armed, but don’t worry, she knows jiu-jitsu. Kaitlyn McCarley was the perfect partner-in-crime, as she navigated the nuances of Wonderland with stamina, spunk, and a beautiful British accent.
In the middle of all the madness, quite literally, Milad Shabazi portrayed the Mad Hatter with the perfect touch of peculiarity. Similarly, Chrissy Baptista had a huge reputation to uphold as the Red Queen; however, her haunting execution appeared effortless. Behind a ferocious facade, Baptista revealed that there is so much more to the Red Queen than meets the eye. No fly systems were used, but it certainly felt like one was; whether -somersaulting onstage or sliding offstage, Colt Craddock was fully committed to capturing the agility of an actual cat—or in this case, the Chesire Cat. Speaking of flying, Walrus, played by Ana Jankovic, commanded what little slice of the spotlight she was given when she would suddenly switch from heroic and composed to hysterically crying.
Putting on a production of such magical magnitude required robust leadership, but luckily, student director Zach Maguire was up for the undertaking. Throughout the show, Maguire’s blocking choices were brilliant, not to mention brilliantly brought to life by Chloe French, Molly Lionato, and Alexis Yonkers, the stage managers who maintained order over a myriad of moving parts. From a fifteen-foot tall iridescent mushroom canopy complete with LED lighting strips to a fantastical tea party table set complete with giant books about “Medicinal Mushrooms” and “Cures for Narcolepsy”, the sets, designed by Eliot Hettler, Shane Roy, Isabel Suk, and Amelia Haid, were truly breathtaking, each blackout concealing countless architectural masterpieces. There’s no denying that the entire stage looked stunning; however, the attention to detail didn’t stop there. Whether experimenting with Foley for sound effects or turning on and off 27 individual microphones between DorMouse snores and Red Queen screams, Ashwini Ramchandran, Ash Dougherty, Audrey Fan, and Lazarus Wilcox worked tirelessly to ensure that the soundscapes were a symphony of whimsy.
Waking up from this sci-fi murder mystery, you can’t help but say “Siri, where am I?” If the answer is not “Oakton High School’s enchanting production of The Doctor in Wonderland”, then off with your head!