Zemfira Stage VanitiesBy Courtney Ferguson • Aug 9th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
The Lyceum, Alexandria, VA
Playing through August 22nd
Reviewed August 6th, 2009
Vanities explores topics that women are all too familiar with. Vanities follows the friendship of three friends, Joanne, Kathy and Mary, throughout the course of their lives. Separated into three Acts, we are first introduced to them as high school cheerleaders, concerned with boys, cheers, dances and pep rallies. In the second Act, they are in their college years, they talk of sorority life and their fears of life after college. In the third Act, years later after they have all graduated and gone their separate ways, the girls meet up with each other for a long overdue get together. It is at this point personalities clash as the girls realize just how different they’ve become from one another.
Actresses Carla Francischetti, Pamela Sabella, and Natalie Christina played the three main roles of Joanne, Mary and Kathy. All three actresses were successful in making good physical and emotional choices that distinguished themselves from teenagers to women. It seemed to take a while for the momentum of the show to get going. The first Act was a bit one leveled, as the three girls concern themselves with their high school troubles. It’s cute at first, but gets to be exhausting after a while. The second Act was more intriguing, but things didn’t really get going until the last Act.
The time in between Acts represented the passing of time as the girls got older and older. In between Acts the girls would get dressed, undressed and do their makeup in front of the audience, transforming right before our eyes. I give props to the three actresses for being bold enough to bare themselves in front of a live audience, continuing to stay in character the whole time.
The set and lighting were very simple. The stage was a small elevated platform not more than a foot tall. Most of the action took place on the stage. Off stage left was where the girls got dressed and prepared in between each Act. It would be nice if Zemfira Stage provided a soundtrack to this show. Throughout the show they played music that reflected the time period, playing such songs as “Lady Marmalade,” “My Boyfriend’s Back,” and “My Guy.”
The intent through each Act was clear, the gradual progression of the first two acts gave room for the third act to really take off. Unfortunately the action came off as a bit sluggish; I did not feel entirely encompassed by the show until the end when they were all grown women. It’s understandable that the concerns of teenage girls may be an exhausting topic for anyone, but the subject kind of killed the action in the beginning of the play.
When I first told one of my oldest theatre friends that I was directing Vanities, the response was “Are you nuts? You can’t direct this show unless you’re a woman or gay-straight men can’t understand the meaning.” Once I got over the shock, I thought about it a bit and in some ways I could see their point-I’ve never been a girl/woman or cheerleader/sorority girl. Then again, I never slashed anyone before I played Jack the Ripper. Vanities to me is a study of personalities and maturation or lack thereof. I do remember High School albeit through the mist of 30 years, I played in the band, played football and knew cheerleaders. While it is true that we tend to wax nostalgic about “the good old days” and forget the bad things, it is those experiences which begin our formation as the people we become.
I firmly believe that there is more than a little Joanne, Kathy and Mary in all of us. When we were that age we felt that each loss or setback was the end of the world and each victory the ultimate source of joy. We believed in our hearts and souls that we were destined for great things and that one day we would be “popular” even if it was not true at the time. Over time those dreams and plans may have faded, we may have changed our goals or had them changed but it does not in any way demean them.
You have the opportunity to glimpse into the lives of three women going through the process. I hope that you enjoy the journey as performed by three incredibly talented actresses. They have taught me as much as I have taught them and each of us has made the others greater than the sum of the parts and their understudies have been equally a part of this process. Together they have made magic and I am so proud of the results.
So relax and allow yourself to go back to a “simpler” time-enjoy the laughter and tears.
- Joanne: Carla Francischetti
- Kathy: Pamela Sabella
- Mary: Natalie Christina
- Joanne/Kathy- Understudy: Natalie Woods
- Mary- Understudy: Sara Drehmer
- Director: Herb Tax
- Stage Manager: Natalie Woods
- Cheer Choreography: Alyssa and Belinda Ryberg and the cast
- Props Acquisition: Zina T. Bleck, Herb Tax
- Set Construction: Ken Woods, Natalie Woods, Herb Tax
- Lighting Design: Herb Tax
- Lighting Operation: Sara Drehmer, Natalie Woods
- Sound Design: Herb Tax
- Sound Operation: Sara Drehmer, Natalie Woods
- Costumes: the cast, Zina T. Bleck, Herb Tax
- Photography: Zina T. Bleck
- Publicity: Zina T. Bleck, Herb Tax
- Poster/Cover Art/ Program: Herb Tax
- Voice Over: Herb Tax
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Courtney Ferguson is currently a student in the theatre arts program at Howard University pursuing a B.F.A in acting. Her plans are to go on to grad school to study Voice and Speech. Her credits include work on and off the stage, and she can be seen in the upcoming production of The Laramie Project with the Providence Players.