William Makepeace Thackeray’s witty and acerbic social satire of 19th-Century English mores and cultural attitudes VANITY FAIR comes to rollicking life in this fast-paced and surprisingly contemporary “Im-morality Play.” What do you want, and what are you willing to do to get it? The quest for love, sex, money, status, and power takes Becky Sharp and a cast of zany characters for a roller coaster ride! Who will end up on top as Fortune’s Wheel spins dizzily?
Nominated for FOUR 2020 Elliot Norton Awards: Outstanding Director; Outstanding Production; Outstanding Design: David R. Gammons, Leslie Held, Jeff Adelberg, & David Wilson; Outstanding Actress: Debra Wise
WINNER of the 2020 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Design.
A wildly inventive Vanity Fair that doesn’t mind its manners
All dramatists live, apprehensively, with the knowledge that once it leaves their hands, any play is only as good as its interpreters. On that score, playwright Kate Hamill lucked out when the gifted David R. Gammons opted to direct — and, as is his custom, design — Hamill’s stage adaptation of “Vanity Fair,” William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1848 novel of manners. The result is an exhilaratingly inventive, go-for-broke production by Underground Railway Theater at Central Square Theater…“Vanity Fair” is driven by Gammons’s trademark creative vigor from the opening moments, when its characters jerk to life-like mechanical toys. An impresario called the Manager — played by the ever-reliable Debra Wise, who is also the URT’s artistic director — addresses the audience, setting both the scene and the waggish tone of “Vanity Fair’s.” … Gammons’s exceptionally detailed set consists of half a dozen jam-packed, side-by-side dressing rooms, suggestive of parallel lives. Whether for costume and wig changes or scenic transitions, the characters of “Vanity Fair” keep disappearing into those rooms, but most of the action transpires on a bare, narrow stage in front of them …
– Don Aucoin, The Boston Globe
She Sees it, She Likes it, She Wants it, She Gets it: VANITY FAIR
There are two directors in Boston that I would wholeheartedly call fearless: One is Igor Golyak of Needham’s Arlekin Players, and the other is David R. Gammons, whose current mounting of Kate Hamill’s Vanity Fair runs at Central Square Theater… With Gammons at the helm, you never know quite what you’re in for. But whatever it is, you know that it will be a full-throttle, meticulously designed, high-concept adventure… Gammons’s extraordinary vision and first-rate cast make Vanity Fair into something better than it ought to be... But each time I found myself growing tired of the business and the breakneck speed of the action, I’d get pulled back in by the charming cast and the sheer creativity of it all… A journey into the mind of David Gammons is always a journey worth taking, even when the material isn’t as satisfying. Here, the pains are minor, thanks mostly to top-shelf vision and one of the most delicious ensemble casts of the year.
– Christopher Ehlers, Dig Boston
Excess Rules in Wild Vanity Fair
I'm going to confess that when I first walked into the theater and got a taste of what was going to be pelted at me for the next few hours, my first thought was: "Oh God, there's no way in hell that this thing is going to work." The production seemed like an unholy marriage of contrasting artistic sensibilities that would speed towards disaster. And yet, the extremes of all of the various elements manage to balance each other out and the marriage stays strong. Shows what I know. It ends up being a wild and enjoyable evening of populist theatrical fun... Here on stage, we're getting the tale told through a high-camp pop culture lens. When Becky Sharp bursts through the door to make her entrance, it's with a guitar case in tow and a leather jacket across her shoulders. She's James Dean, rebel without a cause (or maybe Brando is the better comparison)… The production exists in a strange nether world where the setting of a high-class drawing room is established with a beer clock and a plug-in fire. You can't take anything seriously. You're always slightly chuckling… This is perhaps the kind of production that Fellini would have made had he started doing stage work. There's a fascination with the decadence the characters are indulging in, and in the awareness that their behavior is all an act. The set design (also by Gammons) gives us a long row of dressing rooms that the actors will pop in and out of. The walls are missing, leaving only the framing, so that we can peak into those private spaces and get hints of what these actors are doing behind closed doors. At every opportunity, the grotesque natures of the characters are stretched out for us to view. One long sequence is basically an extended fart joke. (Let it never be said that we were ever above such delightfully low humor.) And although the production is interested in the characters, and occasionally aligns us with them, I think there's also a healthy disdain for the kind of moneyed world that they live in… And what does this all come to? That's the question of "Vanity Fair." The wheel of fate keeps turning and you'll have to see for yourself where it all lands. Buckle in.
– James Wilkinson, Edge Media Network
Adapted by Kate Hamill from the novel by William Makepeace Thackeray
Josephine Moshiri Elwood, David Keohane, Paul Melendy, Malikah McHerrin-Cobb, Stewart Evan Smith, Evan Turissini, & Debra Wise
January 23 - February 23, 2020
Underground Railway Theater
Central Square Theatre, Cambridge
Photos: Nile Scott Studios