Sunday, September 7, 2014

Not Exactly a Full Gallop

Diana by Peter Emmerich

With the increased interest in Diana Vreeland (thanks to a new biography and the lovely film, "The Eye Has to Travel"), I was happy to see there would be a local revival of "Full Gallop", the one-woman play about her that premiered off-Broadway in 1996.

"Full Gallop" was written by Mary Louise Wilson and Mark Hampton. It was a tour-de-force for Mary Louise, garnered postive reviews, won her a Drama Desk Award and had a good run. Of course New York City is the perfect venue for anything Vreeland. I glimpsed Diana only once, during her time as editor in chief of Vogue, and feel the connection still. In fashion, publishing and museum-centric NYC that sense must be in the thousands.

Mary Louise Wilson in the original production

More surprisingly, "Full Gallop" has been staged in other cities with different actresses for years. The production I just saw was itself a revival. The actress portraying Diana expressed her feeling that being older herself now gives the performance more depth.

Galloping actresses 

This is not a review, though I'm surely influenced in my desire to write by flubbed lines and garbled dialogue. I was disappointed because she was portrayed for laughs. Every amazing bon mot was delivered with the intention of prompting a rise from the audience. She came across as being hounded by creditors, desperate for small change and more of a huckster than someone who really did have no idea about money. Her fallen-apart dinner party seemed like the guests would do anything to avoid spending the evening with her, one even suddenly heading off to Morocco. The actress drank constantly, filling her glass with ice and water that I assume was meant to be vodka. Didn't Mrs. V drink scotch? And couldn't the actress have nursed it so we didn't wonder if Diana was really a lush?

My hope is this is not the way "Full Gallop" is being staged. I haven't found any of Mary Louise Wilson's performances to judge her original intent. Not everyone will have seen "The Eye Has to Travel" first and certainly may not wish to afterwards. From what I witnessed on stage, I think the lady needs to speak for herself.

Never at a loss...

1 comment:

  1. I stand corrected— a little. My current reading of "Empress of Fashion" by Amanda Stuart (a great, all-inclusive biography) may lead me to revise one thing that bothered me in the production of "Full Gallup" I saw. I criticized the actress for liberally filling and gulping clear liquid from a decanter, giving the impression that Diana was quite a lush. I also thought Diana was a Scotch drinker, which this liquid did not resemble. In fact, Diana did have a shot of Scotch with her peanut butter sandwich lunch at Vogue. She evidently switched to vodka later in life. When asked if she might have been fired from Vogue on account of her drinking, a colleague remarked you couldn't tell if a "woman like that" was drunk because that was just the way she was. Besides, she also believed in the health properties of water and called it "nature's great tranquilizer". Whatever the actress was supposed to be drinking continues to sound an off note.