Rarely have I seen such an intoxicating, radiant, bravura evocation as Diana Sheehan's one-woman performance as fashion visionary, Diana Vreeland in Full Gallop. Written by Mark Hampton and Mary Louise Wilson, Full Gallop gives us a single day from Vreeland's life. A seemingly spontaneous montage of a quirky voluptuary who was not only comfortable in her own skin, but positively luxuriated it in. From the moment we see director Terry Martin's sumptuous set design with its deep, daunting Oriental reds, we know we are in for an extraordinary excursion. Vreeland has just returned from a few months in Europe after losing her job as Fashion Editor of Vogue Magazine. She is orchestrating an impromptu dinner party with the help of her assistant, Yvonne (heard but not seen) via intercom. Despite apparently sudden refusal to extend her line of credit, she manages to navigate her obligations as hostess before the first guest arrives.
So much of the charm of Full Gallop comes from its refusal to be cloying or coy. So many delightful, unexpected, marvelous turns. Vreeland somehow manages to simultaneously be nothing like and exactly as we might have imagined, drawing fine distinctions between bad and no taste, the intriguing and the merely pretty. She has no trouble discussing with us the failure of society to grasp certain tacit truths, the hilarity of Hitler's mustache, the homely, yet irresistible Hollywood Agent, Swifty Lazar. Vreeland freely admits she'd no initial intention of earning a living, until circumstances and the realization that “.....nobody else can do what I do,” conspired to place her at Harper's Bazaar. You would think that a full length, one-character play composed of anecdotes, telephone conversations and strategizing with a personal assistant whose response is, more often than not, “Oui,” might be sort of, wearing. But Vreeland (that is to say, Diana Sheehan) is so genuine, so self-possessed, so unapologetically extravagant in her sybaritic zeal, we feel privileged to fall under her spell.
Diana Sheehan is nothing less than exquisite as the diminutive doyenne of design. Completely comfortable playing this legendary, utterly original woman who had such a profound impact on culture, couture and style, Sheehan conveys Vreeland's pleasure, conviction and determination with ease and eclat. One can only conjecture when considering how much time, work, and energy Ms. Sheehan must have put into Full Gallop, commanding the stage through two acts, poised and relaxed and summoning the nuanced mien to keep us agog by the strange, giddy, details of Vreeland's career, practically channeling her. Closing weekend is upon us and Sunday only three days away. Do not miss Sheehan's brilliant, unforgettable portrayal : effervescent as Dom Perignon. Salient as a vase of red tulips.
WaterTower presents Diana Sheehan in Full Gallop, Playing August 9th-31st, 2014. 5650 Addison Road, Addison, Texas 75001. 972-450-6232. www.watertowertheatre.org