Criticizing the Culture with SLACabaret: Down the Rabbit Hole
Performance & Theatre
Upon first reading the description for SLACabaret: Down the Rabbit Hole, I chuckled at the thought of a group of Utahans attending an essential oils convention in downtown SLC. Something about the essential oil giants like Young Living and doTERRA being just miles away—thanks to I-15—added multitudes to my anticipation for this show put on by Salt Lake Acting Company (SLAC).
I took my seat and was graciously offered a vodka-lemonade concoction and plums by a fellow patron of the arts. I sadly declined and took my time to survey the room. This was definitely one of the most warm and affectionate environments I’ve had the pleasure of partaking in at SLAC. Showgoers were chatting, laughing and filling up glasses of wine.
I never thought about the possibility of a SLAC and Alice in Wonderland collaboration before, but the possibilities excited me. We were introduced to the play by Olivia Custodio, Emilio Casillas and Michael Leavitt. As the show began, a screen with the beloved Cheshire Cat appeared before us, and the bodacious personality and crude language of Annette Wright brought the character to life. Abe Tomlinson, the Caterpillar (Sarah Shippobotham), then introduced themself. These two characters’ playful banter set the stage, and while I wasn’t entirely sure what route this show was going to take, once I heard the sound of cuss words and mockery of essential oils, I knew this was going to be a deliciously good time.
Now we are introduced to the characters that are going “down the rabbit hole” of Oil Con, the fictional essential oils convention in SLACabaret. This show is what I would like to call a character-driven story as the interactions of the characters and the development of them takes precedence over everything else. Whether it be from mothers and daughters whose beliefs don’t exactly align, shown in the relationship between Debbie and Alice (Daisy Ali All and Kelsie Jepsen), or the hilarious duo from BYU, Ryker and Stryker (Danny Borba and Joseph Paul Branca) as they sing about the LDS Church’s ability to control how one feels and thinks as they struggle with their own sexualities and identities. The song was to die for, by the way.
The husband in a struggling marriage, Matt Hatch (Aaron Linford Allred), and his wife, Marjorie (Kimi Handa Brown), are hoping that this will open up new doors in their intimacy and relationship before they settle for divorce. Marjorie thought it was a great idea for her friend Dorian to attend as well (Sean J. Carter), who finds a connection with Ryker at Oil Con but has to live with the repercussions of heartbreak. The last two characters in the roster are social media queen, Holly Wood (T Anthony), and a girl who spent her last dime to be at the convention, Trudy Smith (Niki Rahimi). Their struggle for who they are and who they seek validation from take center stage as the show goes on.
I believe this is the show with the most robust cast I’ve seen at SLAC, and their dynamics are fluid and personable, as if the SLAC crew has been playing these roles all their life. This made the show all the more enjoyable with a plethora of full-bellied laughter to the point that some patrons were downright gasping for air. Despite being a comedy show, SLAC: Down the Rabbit Hole surprised me with its bravery in criticizing and making fun of Utah culture, namely Utah County. Dorian holding a large soft drink with the label “Swiz” on it was just a cherry on top, poking fun at the soda mixers littered across the valley.
With a plain, stagnant set comprising simple props, the audience and SLAC cast have more opportunity to delve into the deeper meaning of the show—amid hyena-laugh eruptions. The struggle between Matt and Marjorie is palpable, and Trudy’s desire to be seen is visible. By the end of the show, each character shows true development. The most impressive turnabout comes in the form of self revelations the characters have while at the convention—revelations that aren’t so visible to the audience and some that are, even startlingly so.
While the characters are attending Oil Con, the mystery and intrigue of the unveiling of the “White Rabbit” are stewing about the premises. Expecting another revamped and more potent-smelling essential oil than ever before, I got the shock of a lifetime once the “White Rabbit” was officially revealed to the audience and characters. I won’t spoil it here, but let’s just say it’s a BIG surprise.
SLACabaret: Down the Rabbit Hole delivered beyond any expectations that I had when first sitting down in the theater. The characters are bursting with personality and relatability while showing true growth and change. The songs are parodies of pop songs with a Utah essential oil-convention twist, making them all the more amusing. Even though that might be a turn off for some, I assure you that they are accompanied with lovely personalities and incredible vocals from the cast. SLACabaret is a lovely, well-rounded show with plenty of social commentary and satire about the Beehive State that we call home. –Brittnie Gallegos
You can catch SLCabaret until August 21 and buy tickets on the official site at saltlakeactingcompany.org.
Read more reviews of local theater productions:
Mestiza, or Mixed: A Utah-based Story of Mixed Identity and the Artist’s Pursuit
They Reminisce: A Retrospective on Hip-Hop Culture