Saturday, March 22, 2014

The essence of being a fashion icon

Sometimes a front-row balcony seat can be just as good as any orchestra one, especially if the set of the play you're watching spans the entire space between the left and right wings. Even more so if the stage is raked (sloping upwards). I was lucky to have had the last good balcony seat available in the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium at RCBC Plaza, Makati for Full Gallop last night. The set didn't occupy the entire stage, though. There was just a red square platform that served as the living room floor of Diana Vreeland's apartment. Lavishly decorated with wallpaper, photographs, drapery, furniture, books and vases yet to be filled by Vreeland with flowers, everything was perfectly organized and in keeping with the red color scheme.

Full Gallop's set (photo taken by my friend Koji)

Full Gallop is set in 1971, on the day legendary fashion icon Diana Vreeland returns from her European vacation after getting fired by Vogue where she was editor-in-chief for eight years. She's dressed head-to-toe in black, with a stylish cape flowing behind her, the chic monotony of her appearance only broken by the rouge on her face and a beautiful tusk necklace around her neck. Her hair perfectly coiffed, she walks around her living room, in heels, with either a cigarette on a holder or a glass of whiskey in hand, making occasional exchanges through the intercom with her French housemaid Yvonne (voiced by G. Toengi) about the dinner party she's throwing, but mostly relating her wild opinions, funny and sad stories, and tweetable words of wisdom here and there, all obtained from being born and raised in Paris, moving to New York at the onset of World War I, her relationship with her husband Reed and her long years of traveling and being editor for two fashion magazines.

Cherie Gil as Diana Vreeland

In between the moment Gil, as Vreeland, shouts that she wants her living room to "look like a garden, but a garden in hell" and her last line, "I want an advance!" we find the fashion icon struggling—with names, an article written about her by The New York Post, finding someone to finance her own magazine, reconnecting with her sons, accepting the offer to be special consultant at The Metropolitan Museum of Art's The Costume Institute. But as she was struggling she was also shining. How appropriate that her favorite color was red, "the great clarifier," because she was, without a doubt, a woman of passion.

Diana Vreeland in her famed apartment living room

Everything I knew about Diana Vreeland I got from theater, in those two short hours last night that I watched Cherie Gil skillfully portray the former editor-in-chief of Vogue. Until I took to Google today, that is, which is what I usually do before seeing a film or a play...or going anywhere, really. Just to be prepared. But I didn't do that before seeing Full Gallop. I saw my friend Koji's review of the play on his blog, but I mostly just looked at the pictures. I just thought, booking my ticket online, "Fuck, it's Cherie Gil! It has got to be good!" And it was.

It's a shame Full Gallop only has a short run. This one-woman play written by Mary Louise Wilson and Mark Hampton and directed by Bart Guingona will have its last show tomorrow at 2 PM, in the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati. Even if you've never heard of Diana Vreeland before, watch the play, like my friend Claire said, if only for Cherie Gil.

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