By Earl D.C. Bracamonte
“A life of fashion is strenuous . . .”
Diana Vreeland (1904-1989)
Written by Mary Louise Wilson and Mark Hampton, Full Gallop focuses on the life of Diana Vreeland when she returns to New York from a European holiday after unceremoniously evicted as magazine editor.
As chief of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue magazines, she stood at the center of American fashion for five decades. As a member of the International Café Society, Diana chronicled the extraordinary people and events of her time. Full Gallop is a portrait of this remarkable woman at a turning point in her life.
“This is my first venture as producer of a play. Bart Guingona introduced me to Diana Vreeland. This play is a homage to all my friends in the industry who’ve made me look good as a stylish actor. It was an excruciating process to do Diana Vreeland,” revealed Cherie Gil during the post-performance call.
The one-woman play is set in August 1971 at her Park Avenue apartment. She has just returned home to the Big Apple after four months in Europe; a trip she took after being fired from Vogue. She throws an impromptu dinner party in the hope that a wealthy friend who is invited will bankroll her into starting a magazine of her own. Simply imagine the chaotic preparations of Mike Nichols’ The Birdcage with the fuss all done by a single person.
Other friends, however, attempt to persuade her to take a job at the famed Metropolitan Museum of Art. In her distinctive style, once she decides in which direction her life will move, Vreeland goes at it ‘full gallop.’
Joey Mendoza’s spectacular set design is the other character in this play, aside from the unseen housekeeper Yvonne (voiced by Giselle Toengi). “The set was given a sense of monumentality because it celebrates the life of a fashion icon. Diana Vreeland was the template of all magazine fashion editors. The women of her time were outsized, larger-than-life, and very opinionated. They were very protective of their idea of beauty, and wanted people to see it in their own definition.
“This is a character study of someone quite well-known. We were at the crossroads of either mimicking her or trying to show her essence and we went for the latter approach, to make people understand her better. Once Cherie saw the intellectual process of Diana Vreeland, she saw it all made sense to the attitude of the character. It was important to bring out the mind of DV as a leader of women. Her way of thinking was rapid rather than languid like that of Maria Callas (which Cherie also portrayed),” shared director Bart Guingona.
Given an ovation on preview night, Cherie essays Vreeland’s persona with unflinching bravura; affording the audience with glimpses unto a life well-lived, albeit with cunning and craftiness. Surprisingly, there is humor in this serious material; at times flippant, then obdurate in some.
“Similarities? DV and me never remembers names and we both love to tango!” intimated Cherie.
In 1989, Ms. Vreeland died of a heart attack at the age of 85 in Lenox Hill Hospital, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in New York City.
Catch the remaining two nights of this very limited, 5-run play. Full Gallop reopens Mar 21 (8 pm) and 23 (4 pm) at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, 4th Level RCBC Plaza, on the corner of Ayala and Buendia avenues in Makati City.
Full Gallop is presented by arrangement with the Josef Weinberger Plays Limited of London. For ticket reservations, simply call tel. no. 215-0788 or mobile # 0917-5378313 and TicketWorld at 819-9999 or www.ticketworld.com.ph.