|Wednesday, September 15, 1999||
Volume 65, Issue 17
Days of the New
|One-woman play goes
into Full Gallop at Stages
By Emily Gillispie
Engulfed in a world of high fashion and exorbitant luxury, the unpredictable and eccentric Diana Vreeland seems to have it all. As editor in chief of Vogue magazine for nearly 10 years, she has propelled the world of fashion (and Vogue's place in it) to unexpected proportions. She's determined and straightforward -- but in 1971, her life takes an abrupt turn.
The 21st season of Stages Repertory Theatre begins with Vreeland's story in the Houston premiere of the off-Broadway hit Full Gallop. The one-woman play focuses on true-life fashion guru Vreeland shortly after she is fired from legendary fashion magazine Vogue in 1971.
The high-society comedic monologue takes the audience down Vreeland's own memory lane, which is lined with stories about shopping, traveling and the social elite.
The play, set in Vreeland's gaudy New York apartment, is divided into two acts. The flamboyant and often times annoying Vreeland, played by veteran actress Sally Edmundson, walks the audience through her last days at Vogue.
Surrounded by red walls, springtime flowers and animal-print rugs, Vreeland then describes her life after the magazine, including a four-month trip to Europe and a wonderful visit to Paris. Her stories are endless. She rambles on about her simple tastes, which include lettuce and chutney, although she is not sure whether lettuce is a food.
Sally Edmundson stars as fashion maven Diana Vreeland in Full Gallop, a one-woman play showing at Stages Repertory Theatre through Oct. 3.
Between phone calls and chats with her maid Yvonne, played offstage by Nathalie Cunningham, Vreeland flips through the most recent gossip in the New York Post even though she swears she never reads that "rag." She then receives a call from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which wants her to work for them. Vreeland, stubborn yet unpredictable, makes no commitments but says she will call the museum later.
Edmundson does a remarkable job of portraying the long-winded Vreeland. Being the only actor on stage throughout the entire 80-minute play might have been too strenuous for a lesser actress, but Edmundson's lines are clearly spoken with an air of authenticity and affection. It is almost as if Vreeland's spirit came back to do some coaching.
However, even quality acting cannot make up for the lack of a
strong plot or any sort of scene changes. The basic premise behind the
play is Vreeland's job loss and her quest to put together a dinner party
in search of a new venture.
The stories take a more serious turn when Vreeland recalls her
late husband, who died of cancer. It is only then that she stops talking
-- but, of course, not for long.
She's still sneaking peaks at the Post and quotes that proclaim Vreeland is washed up and that her "era is over." This doesn't slow her down, though. One has to admire her for galloping ahead like that, but wishes she wasn't so annoying while she did it.
The supposedly comic devices throughout the play don't help. For example, a way Vreeland distracts herself from the negativity of the newspaper is to continually mess with a covered chair. She first stares at it from across the room, then yells, "What is wrong with that damn chair!" The piece becomes a running joke throughout the play.
But Vreeland's excess can be amusing. She describes her love for all colors, especially red, which is clarifying and revealing. She just can't be "bored of it." Who would've guessed? Black is the hardest color to get right, she says -- but she's draped in a black shirt and pants.
However, other aspects of her appearance come across as odd. She wears dark blusher that reaches up onto her ears. One has to suppose Vreeland is so wrapped up in the world around her that she fails to notice her own gaudiness -- or maybe she really thinks it looks good.
And the bone she wears in her hair looks like it was ripped from
the head of a saber-tooth tiger. It is just another example of Vreeland's
excessive fashion sense.
Full Gallop runs through Oct. 3 at Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201
Allen Parkway. Tickets are $26 to $37. Those under 25 pay only $10 for
Send comments to