August 18, 2000
For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.
For more information about Vanities and the Off-Tryon Theatre Company's inaugural season, please visit OTTC on the web.
Vanities, the Off-Tryon Theatre Company's inaugural performance, offers three self absorbed yet fascinating stereotypes, a soundtrack that will carry boomers through their youth, and some of the shiniest, perkiest wigs you'll see on a Charlotte stage.
The three act play, written by Jack Heifner and directed by Ed Gilweit, slowly skewers its highly flawed characters on their ten year journey from adolescence to adulthood. The high school princesses primp, polish and cheerlead their way toward disillusionment and unhappiness, leaving their best years behind them at age twenty-eight.
Kathy, Mary and Joann are the girls every fifteen year old wants to be: they are beautiful, popular and have boyfriends. Joanne, played by Katie Pendergrast, is too dumb to be malicious. "I can't imagine not being popular," is the theme of her life, peppered by various trivialities that would cause her to "just die, just scream, just kill myself, or just drop out of school." Pendergrast's impeccable comic timing and her character's easily mocked personality traits (her lime green bridesmaids' dresses were chosen to match the food) delighted the audience.
Kellyn Ellwood played Kathy, the lead cheerleader, who with an endless dedication to pep, planning, and parties with a theme, reached her pinnacle as a Kappa Kappa Gamma. Her role in college was to ensure that "nobody on this campus laughs about a Kappa." Ellwood's portrayal of Kathy's fall from perky to cynical was so complete that I found myself rooting for her to succeed in her banal dream "to teach the value of pep."
In an uneven performance by Angela Holley, Mary typified the good girl gone bad. From letting her boyfriend go to second base in high school to "the pill changed my life" in college, Mary so desperately sought freedom that she lost herself in the process. Holley played a high schooler perfectly, and it was difficult to tell if her performance in the last scene suffered from personal lack of enthusiasm or the drudgery of the material.
Minor lapses in detail included Mary pulling white cigarettes from a box of regular Marlboros and smoking too many of them in a small space. We got the point. The minimalist set and ever-presence of the actors onstage created an atmosphere of intimacy. As a pleasant distraction, cocktails were served to the audience during set changes.
As Director Gilweit wrote in the program notes, Vanities is "a coherent guide on how not to lead one's life." Narcissism and conceit may be attractive traits during the confusion of adolescence, but lead to heartbreak and discontent in the real world.
Lynn Trenning, August 18, 2000