March 14, 2014
Ms. Cherie Gil has done it again. After wowing audiences a few years ago with a tour-de-force one-woman show, Terence McNally's "Master Class", she is back with yet another tour-de-force one-woman show, Mary Louise Wilson and Mark Hampton's "Full Gallop."
In the first play, she played opera singer Maria Callas, who had retired from performing and now a vocal coach. In this new play, she plays Diana Vreeland, who had just recently been unceremoniously fired as editor-in-chief of Vogue Magazine. In both plays, the situation gives the lone powerful female protagonist ample legroom to look back at her life and express her thoughts about anything under the sun she felt like commenting about.
This two-hour play (in two acts) tackled one night when Diana Vreeland who had just come home after an extended stay in Europe after losing her job at Vogue. She was planning a dinner with a few friends that night, but it seems nothing seems to be falling into place, as the cook had nothing to cook and the guests all seem to have other things to do.
So for the whole play, Vreeland regales us about her various interesting experiences with her beloved husband Reed Vreeland and the rich and famous set she hung around with, . She drops big names in the history of fashion, like Balenciaga, Coco Chanel, Helena Rubenstein. She plays us her favorite music on her record player as she displays her attempts at tango, ballet or the kabuki. She amuses us with delightful one-liners, like how her "Kleenex and dollar bills were ironed," or how "pink was the midnight blue of India," or how "contentment is only for cows." Her Intercom conversations with her laconic French maid Yvonne (featuring the voice of G Toengi) were hilarious.
Although I absolutely did not know who Diana Vreeland was, Ms Gil was able to convince me that the spirit of Ms. Vreeland had inhabited her. This play was lighter and funnier than the Callas play. I loved how Ms. Gil portrayed Vreeland's idiosyncratic opinions about various diverse topics, ranging from her house decors, colors, taste, nostalgia, the New York Post, and even cheetahs and Adolph Hitler's mustache. It is not about Vogue. It is not even about fashion. It was simply all about Diana Vreeland, and Ms. Gil has become her. Even her mistakes sounded natural. There was nothing second-rate or trying-hard about Ms. Gil's performance as Vreeland.
The luxuriously classy set by Joey Mendoza was breathtakingly resplendent in its scarlet motif. The audience spontaneously erupted with applause when the curtains were first raised at the start of the show. We the audience all felt like high-society guests sitting in Ms. Vreeland's living room as she chats with us for two hours.
Congratulations to director Bart Guingona and the crew of MyOwn Mann Productions Inc. (with Ms. Cherie Gil herself at the helm) for this exhilarating piece of theater. A one-woman play about an eccentric and crabby American socialite and her stream-of-consciousness rants in 1971 may not exactly appeal to everyone. But watching Ms. Cherie Gil draw us into her world was quite an experience to remember.
Hurry and catch the last few remaining shows of "Full Gallop"! After its premiere night tonight, there are only four shows left, tomorrow March 15, then 21, 22, all at 8 pm and one final show on March 23 at 4 pm.