N.C. University Theatre’s TheatreFEST 2017 production of Full Gallop, written by Mark Hampton and Mary Louise Wilson, is a one-woman show about the life of the iconic Diana Vreeland (1903-89). She was born Diana Dalziel in Paris, France, circa 1903; and she later became the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine. The play takes place in New York City, approximately four-months after her scandalous firing from Vogue.
The great irony is that the mastermind of a fashion era who created such beauty, was never a beauty herself. Vreeland was such a fascinating, eccentric person, that I had high hopes for this play. I was, however, sadly disappointed with the writing. Although the show is a One Act, I feel that the authors missed out on so much of Vreeland’s life. It barely touched on her professional life.
The show does name drop a few characters she met along the way such as Hitler, a man with a horrible funny mustache. However, it completely glosses over other fun facts, such as discovering a young Lauren Bacall or being an advisor to Jackie Kennedy on matters of style.
Vreeland was an ambitious child, determined she would become somebody. She shaped the style of the 20th century by creating uniqueness instead of traditional beauty. She was passionate about everything that she did and “faked it until she made it.”
The format of the play is mostly conversational, with moments of breaking the Fourth Wall. Personally, I’m not a big fan of breaking the Fourth Wall. Some would argue that this keeps the audience engaged and interacting. While these moments are humorous, they are unneeded.
Vreeland, as portrayed by local icon Lynda Clark, tackles the challenge of portraying such an eccentric character, under the direction of N.C. State University Theatre director John C. McIlwee. Clark attempted to take us on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, from intense fury, silliness, introspection, and brief moments of sadness. Unfortunately, these moments never lasted for very long.
Lynda Clark is able to capture some of the spirit of Diana Vreeland. Standing before us dressed in all black, Clark as Vreeland was highly opinionated, high spirited and, at moments, extremely funny. It’s a shame that the authors didn’t focus more on Vreeland being an accidental feminist. I would have loved to see Clark been given more of the opportunity to portray those characteristics.
There are a few misses with Jayme Mellema’s set as well. Vreeland was known for her love of bright-red Chinese lacquer, and she had a notoriously bright-red apartment on Park Avenue. Although the set was beautiful, it was not decorated with the iconic colors of Vreeland.
The set was divided into three spaces: a bedroom, living room, and office area. The bedroom area was lit but never used, and the office had awkward steps that Clark had to teeter on for phone calls. I suspect the same set is being utilized by all of this summer’s TheaterFEST productions.
There were a few sound glitches during last Sunday’s matinee performance. At the very beginning of the show, Vreeland was supposed to be having a conversation with her French Maid via intercom. The sound cues did not work properly at first, so we only heard an awkward one-sided conversation. Clark did a good job of moving on and making the best of the situation.
Full Gallop is only one-hour long and is currently being performed in the Kennedy-McIlwee Studio Theatre in NCSU’s Frank Thompson Hall as part of TheaterFEST. This production has only two more performances: (1) a $50-per-person “Gallop [High] Tea,” catered by The Lucky Teapot and including a ticket to the show, at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 17th, and (2) a regular 2 p.m. Saturday, June 24th, performance, for $20 a ticket, except $6 NCSU for students, $12 for other students, $16 for NCSU faculty and staff, and $18 for seniors 60+.
SECOND OPINION: June 12th Durham, NC CVNC review by Alan R. Hall: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=8520.
N.C. State University Theatre presents FULL GALLOP, starring Lynda Clark as Diana Vreeland,at 2 p.m. June 17 and 24 in the Kennedy-McIlwee Studio Theatre in Frank Thompson Hall, 2241 E. Dunn Ave., Raleigh North Carolina 27607, on the NCSU campus, presented as part of TheatreFEST 2017.
TICKETS: $20 ($6 NCSU students, $12 students, $16 NCSU faculty and staff, and $18 seniors 60+).
BOX OFFICE: By in person at Ticket Central or by telephone at 919-515-1100.
THEATREFEST 2017: https://theatre.arts.ncsu.edu/whats-on-stage2016-17-season-22016-17-season-2/theatrefest-2017/.
PRESENTER: https://theatre.arts.ncsu.edu/, https://www.facebook.com/ncstateuniversitytheatre, and https://twitter.com/ncsutheatre.
NOTE: There will be a $50-per-person high tea, catered by The Lucky Teapot, at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 17th. The ticket price includes the tea, an onstage tour of the Hay Fever set, and one ticket to the show.
Diana Vreeland (Vogue magazine editor, 1903-89): http://legacy.dianavreeland.com/ (official website) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana_Vreeland (Wikipedia).
Full Gallop (1993 Sag Harbor, NY and 1995 Off-Broadway play): http://www.dramatists.com/cgi-bin/db/single.asp?key=1922 (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Search?searchText=full+gallop&searchDomain=Production (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_Gallop (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Mark Hampton (playwright): http://www.doollee.com/PlaywrightsH/hampton-mark.html (Doollee.com: The Playwrights Database) and http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/5298 (Internet Off-Broadway Database).
Mary Louise Wilson (playwright): http://www.lortel.org/Archives/CreditableEntity/5299 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/mary-louise-wilson-65252 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Louise_Wilson (Wikipedia).
John C. McIlwee (director and director of University Theatre): https://theatre.arts.ncsu.edu/our-team/ (N.C. State University Theatre bio).
Shannon Plummer-White is no stranger to the stage! She studied Musical Theater & Opera at the American Musical Dramatic Academy in New York City, and has appeared in films such as Iron Man 3 and Safe Haven. She has also performed with the North Carolina Master Chorale and the North Carolina Symphony. When she isn’t on stage or making magic behind the scenes, she can be found in the art studio playing with fire and molten glass. She is an animal advocate with a special love of cats. She has four rescued fur children and a very supportive husband. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.