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A CurtainUp BerkshiresBerkshire Review
Full Gallop Review by Elyse Sommer

Style is a great thing. Oh, you gotta have style! It helps you get up in the morning! It helps you get down the stairs!
---Diana Vreeland
Annette Miller as Diana Vreeland
(Photo: Kevin Sprague)
Annette Miller, one of Shakespeare & Company's favorite thespians, introduced herself in Golda's Balcony with "No wig. No swollen legs. No false nose. Use your imagination." Now that she's inhabiting the persona of quite a different woman in another one-person play, Full Gallop, she's gone all out in the opposite direction to emulate the flamboyant look that was the trademark of Diana Vreeland. A shiny, jet black wig sits atop her own brown hair. She's rouged to the gills -- or, to be accurate, the ear lobes. Her bone necklace is a replica of one worn by Vreeland.

Diana Vreeland
The real Diana Vreeland
While both these women were famous, they ruled very different domains. Vreeland's claim to fame was as high priestess of fashion and style at Harper's Bazaar and Vogue and, eventually, the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute. Like Golda's Balcony, Full Gallop revolves around a crisis in each woman's life. Golda Meir's crisis affected the whole world, Diana Vreeland's is more personal, a turning point at age seventy-something which forced her to face the rest of her life after being humiliatingly dethroned as Vogue's editor.

Full Gallop, was adapted by actress Mary Louise Wilson and playwright Mark Hampton from Vreeland's best selling autobiography (D.V.) as a vehicle for Wilson. The actress approached the meaty role at a full gallop and set designer James Noone set the off-Broadway Westside Theatre's stage ablaze with bright red floral chintzes and walls that wrapped themselves around the front rows. The lavish staging and Wilson's bravura performance made this seem more than the sum of its single part. Since that premiere production in 1996, Full Gallop has had numerous revivals. Having seen Miller step into the shoes of the plain-faced, motherly Israeli prime minister, I thought that the actress who off stage exudes some of Vreeland's glamour, would be a natural for this role if Shakespeare & Company ever decided to revive the play. They did . . . and she is.

The script is unchanged from the Full Gallop I saw and reviewed eight years ago (It's still available for your perusal here). Perhaps because of the much more modest staging and the less vibrantly "clarifying reds" of the furnishings and because Miller chomps on that modest scenery just a little too hard, this production often seems to amble along at a slow trot rather than a consistently entertaining full gallop. The fact that solo plays have proliferated to the point of being something of a glut on the theatrical landscape may be another factor in a certain weariness with this genre. Except for the most outstanding solo shows, I for one have grown weary of being drafted as a substitute on-stage colleague of the solo performer.

Vreeland's many sound bites about color ("Pink is the navy blue of India") and fashion trends ("Blue jeans are the greatest invention since the gondola") are still amusingly quotable. However, over time, the erstwhile fashion doyenne's ruminations as she contemplates a dinner party in her Park Avenue apartment that promises to end as disastrously as her career at Vogue are more than ever the stuff of tissue paper rather than cloth. Full Gallop remains more than anything an opportunity for a good actress to strut her stuff, but offers little for the audience to care about deeply.

On a more positive note, Miller does get at the nuances beneath the brittle, bon mot spouting surface. In the second and better act of this production she touchingly conveys the sort of resiliency in the face of adversity with which we can all identify -- the same resiliency which Shakespeare & Company is displaying in the face of the financial problems that have prompted a much lighter than usual summer season.

Written by Mark Hampton and Mary Louise Wilson
Directed by Daniel Gidron
Annette Miller as Diana Vreeland
Voice of Yvonne (Vreeland's maid): Catherine DuBois Hansen
Costumes: Govane Lohbauer
Scenic Design/Properties: Brynna Bloomfield
Lighting: Nathan Towne-Smith
Music: Dewey Dellay
Shakespeare & Co., Spring Lawn Theatre, 70 Kemble St, Lenox
Call or see website for performance schedule: 413 637-3353;
7/08/04 to 9/05/04; opening 7/16/-04
Talkbacks featuring local fashion designers and retailers will follow six performances. Speakers will include Paul Hutchinson from Casablanca, Lenox, MA; Gabrielle Berlett from Evviva, Lenox; Aline Sosne of Tanglewool, Lenox; Tasha Polizzi from T.P. Saddleblanket Co., Great Barrington, MA; S&Co costume designer Arthur Oliver; and international costume designer Charles Caine.
Review by Elyse Sommer based on July 16th performance
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