Theater & Dance
"'Twas Brillig"

By: Book by Tony Kienitz, lyrics by Kienitz and Lewis Carroll
Music by: Andrew Lu and Emil Ernström
Additional music by:
Produced by: A Theatre Near U
Featuring: Cara Parker, Jackson Wylder, Quincy Shaindlin, Will Kast, Elizabeth McCole, Zoe! Stanton-Savitz, Atticus Shaindlin, Raymónd McCarthy, Roddy Cardamone, Gil Weissman, Rachel Lock, Amanda Clausen, Jasmyn Donya, Alexandra Dinu, Lauren Emo, Monica Hobbs, Jennifer Tashjian
Directed by: Tanna Herr and Tony Kientz
Choreography by: Kaylie Caires and Nicole Meador
Additional vocal direction by: Pierce Peter Brandy
Musical direction by: Andrew Lu
Orchestra: Clara Wolfe, Leo Minami, Dexter Yanagisawa, jason Ballard, Alan Huang, Emil Ernström, Jeremy Samos, Peter Willits
When: June 12-27, 2015
Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts SecondStage, 00 Castro Street, Mountain View, California
Tickets: $17-22; call 650-903-6000 or visit

Weissman, McCarthy, Parker, Kast, Shaindlin
Gordon Craig / A Theatre Near U
Gil Weissman as Dodo, Raymónd McCarthy as Speedo, Cara Parker as Mary, Will Kast as Wiggy and Quincy Shaindlin as Little Ben, from left, in "'Twas Brillig," presented by A Theatre Near U, June 12-27, 2015, at the SecondStage of the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.
And hast thou slain the teen angst? Come to our eyes, our beamish boys and girls!
A Theatre Near U stages an ambitious, if not fully polished, modernization of Lewis Carroll
June 26, 2015

'"'Twas Brillig," and the Slithy Toves were actually three perfectly pretty young teens, dressed as candy stripers, in the new musical from A Theatre Near U, a film and stage performance academy.

The musical itself, with book by A Theatre Near U Artistic Director Tony Kienitz, lyrics by Kienitz and Lewis Carroll (Yes, that Lewis Carrol), and music by a couple of recent Palo Alto High School grads, plus a tune by another Paly grad, could probably be developed into a very good and certainly meaningful musical, but may not be.

That's because the show was developed more or less as a teaching opportunity, with Kienitz tailoring roles to fit students he wanted to perform in it.

On June 20, in Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts' SecondStage black box theater, a talented bunch of energetic teens delivered a show that is in need of trimming and polishing if it is to go on and become something.

If Kienitz doesn't develop the show further, if he doesn't try to make it the next "Spring Awakening" or "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," it will still have been a worthwhile performance experience for his students, and it was still a show that kept an audience almost sufficiently entertained for a couple of hours.

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There were several very good performances by the young cast, but the most impressive element was the music, by Andrew Lu and Emil Ernström. Leading a fine ensemble of musicians, they backed all the sung songs quite well, but the instrumentals between scenes were what really shone a light on what talented composers they are. They are both headed off to college, to study music.

The story, much compressed: Cara Parker as Mary Pickett comes through a door that is locked behind her. She doesn't know it, but she has just, in effect, fallen down Alice's rabbit hole. She is surrounded by a lot of inexplicable craziness, ameliorated somewhat by the presence of Wiggy, who carries a guitar and seems sane and caring. Wiggy is played by Will Kast, who provides the song "All Over Me."

Mary is there because she is lovesick. She killed her boyfriend. Wiggy is there because he is melancholy. After a while, it becomes obvious that most of the residents have problems.

Jackson Wylder as Tom was hilarious, with his gape-mouthed stare. Jasmyn Donya as Eugenia and Alexandra Dinu as Eugenius made the most of their funny roles; I seldom entirely understood what they were doing, but they were fun to watch. Roddy Cardamone was disturbing as the cameraman who made a point of intimidating people by invading their personal space. Quincy Shaindlin had a lot of presence and charisma as the fake-bearded Little Ben.

The entire cast, in fact, delivered as actors and singers, although most of them could probably use more time in dance class. There was a bit of almost every form of dance, from en pointe ballet to tap, choreographed by Kaylie Caires and Nicole Meador, but nothing powerful.

The denizens of this mad room want to make Mary queen, before the new girl, Alice arrives. Lives are at stake.

What does it all mean? That lesson is delivered toward the end: "Off with their meds! Off with their meds!"

Which makes much of the looniness of this show make more sense: It's a commentary, perhaps, on a society that would rather medicate its teens then deal with their real needs.

Email John Orr at

Kast, Wylder, cast
Gordon Craig / A Theatre Near U
Will Kast as Wiggy and Jackson Wylder as Tom surrounded by the cast of "'Twas Brillig," presented by A Theatre Near U, June 12-27, 2015.
Donya, Dinu
Gordon Craig / A Theatre Near U
Jasmyn Donya as Eugenia, left, and Alexandra Dinu as Eugenius in "'Twas Brillig."