She had Fashion, She had Passion

14 03 2014

20140313_220830Cherie Gil as Diana Vreeland“I am out of a job,” Cherie Gil as THE Diana Vreeland announced as soon as the curtain rose in “Full Gallop,” a one-woman play about the latter years of the infamous Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue editor.

But Vreeland was far from a pitiful retiree. She spent four good months getting over it – having a blast in London and Milan, after traveling through the south of France and then staying at the hotel right next to the Prado in Madrid.

Set in August 1971, at her famous apartment, Vreeland has just returned home to New York after her European tour which she took after being fired from Vogue. She thought of throwing an impromptu dinner, hoping that a wealthy friend would bankroll her into starting her own magazine. Her other friends have different plan – they wanted to persuade her to take a job at the famed Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Cherie Gil as Vreeland opened her almost two-hour monologue by introducing herself as the recently deposed editor-in-chief of Vogue, where she worked for nine years, after 25 years as the fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar.

Announcing that she has no plans to retire, even detesting that word, Vreeland reminisced how she became THE fashion editor and described what she did in Vogue, saying “I give them what they never knew they wanted.”

While waiting for her friends to arrive, she continued her musings. Declaring that “I don’t like to work,” she recalled her interminable days at Vogue, when she had to take her lunch – a peanut butter sandwich and a shot of scotch – at her desk.

She continued to remember the time when a friend of her told her that “Your future is behind you,” and she quipped: “Your future is behind you? I almost drowned.”

But the fashion icon admitted that she wanted to drown, not with anything else but in beauty. Through her monologue, it reveals how her search for fabulousness turned into self-conscious flippancy.

Each line seems quotable, but if you really think about it, those lines – such as “Unshined shoes are the end of civilization” or “Ridiculous, it was all wrong” referring to Hitler’s mustache – are quite so guarded.

Truly, fashion meets theater in this MyOwn Mann Productions and Actor’s Actors Inc. production. The veteran actress came out on the stage dressed in a Rajo Laurel ensemble, but with a touch of the signature fashion style that Vreeland is known for.

On the day we watched the play, Cherie Gil wore Vreeland’s trademark black pants and black turtleneck sweater, with her hair lacquered black. (Take note: Cherie Gil will wear different outfits on every performance)

Definitely, it gives a strong dazzling contrast to bright red “Park Avenue apartment.” Nearly, everything – pillows, tables, chaise – is read, different shades but all deep and all rich. Purple flowers strewn all over the room gave a different dimension to the room.

“Some people say that fashion is dead. Fashion is history. It is beauty that is leaving this world,” she proclaimed.

Towards the end of Act 1, Vreeland discovered just then where her kitchen is. Act 2 opened showing Vreeland’s amazement that her kitchen was all white. She went on to say that “My eye for color is the most extraordinary gift I have.”

As the story unfolds, I can sense a longing for by gone times when “people never ceased perfecting themselves.” The scene when Vreeland received a call from one of her children was quite touching. The silence and the hidden tears before she gave a wisecrack on bald being unfashionable were simply poignant.

As Cherie Gil gave life to Vreeland on stage, the scenes reminded me of a former editor. The scenes – where Vreeland called her friends to come but had a hard time convincing them that her dinner was THE party they should not to be missed, or how she had dilemma on what to serve for dinner and asked her secretary Yvonne to call a certain restaurant or chef but bore no fruition – tugged something on my mind. I wondered: Is this how my former editor’s life now?

At the peak of her career, everyone followed her every beck and call. She didn’t have to call because they would give things to her even before she even asked. I couldn’t help but think about my former editor in some scenes. (Maybe it is just me)

But I can also see the brilliance of a woman at a crossroad, trying to put everything together and not accepting defeat, a woman to whom life can only be lived as a constant parade of adventures.

It really does take a first-class character actress, not a second-rate trying hard copycat, to convey the beautiful colors of Vreeland. To bring her personality to life and introduce her to the young audience takes more than just guts, it’s superb acting to the finest. And Cherie did that and more. Cherie’s strong passion brought out Vreeland’s undeniable fashion sense.

At the end of the play, Vreeland proved that she’s not ready to put her fashionable shoes on the shelf. In her distinctive style, once she decided in which direction her life would move, she would go at it at “full gallop.”

Metropolitan Museum would call her and with a quick maneuver, she was no longer unemployed. She became the consultant for the museum’s Costume Institute where she would create smashing annual exhibitions.

“Full Gallop” opens March 14 with a gala night premiere, followed by regular performances on March 15 and 21, at 8 p.m., and matinee performances on March 16 and 23, at 4 p.m., at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza at Ayala Avenue, Makati.

For ticket inquiries, call 215-0788 or (0917) 537-8313. You can also buy tickets through Ticketworld (891-9999; http://www.ticketworld.com.ph).

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