VANITIES Explores Issues Still Relevant Today

by Connie Giordano

Sarah J. Gafgen, Alexis Neubauer and Jessica Snow in a scene from VANITIES running at Walnut Street Studio 5 through April 21.(Photo credit: John Donges)

I attended the opening weekend of Jack Heifner’s VANITIES, produced by Quince Productions, directed by Rich Rubin, at the Walnut Street Theatre Studio 5.  Set in the heart of the feminist movement age, late 1960s, VANITIES explores women’s issues still relevant today.

In three long scenes, VANITIES takes us through a decade of three Texan high school girls coming of age, starting as cheerleaders in late high school, through the college sorority days, and finishing amidst their “success” in their late twenties.  Though I enjoy a story of such a nostalgic time period; Heifner’s characters seemed a bit wooden, you never quite get to know each of them well enough to truly care what happens.  The production needed some tweaking as well, i.e., missed comic bits, over-emphasized Southern accents that sounded more like Savannah, GA than Texan, pregnant pauses, actor mugging, and missed lines.

Starting and ending on the same note, I wanted to see a change in the actors as they matured through the story.  A 28 year-old woman carries herself entirely different than a 17 year-old school girl, and I thought this change should have been more apparent for the audience.  The lack of attention to detail frustrated me as an audience member throughout the show, though I wanted to “cheer” for each of these women very much.

On a positive note, Sarah Gafgen’s performance as Joanne was the strongest of the three; I’d like to see what else she can do.  Excellent music fitting the time period, (Mick Loro Sound Design) and Annie Heath’s attractive set made good use of the small space.

VANITIES stars Jessica Snow, Sarah Gafgen and Alexis Newbauer. Running time one hour and forty-five minutes with no intermission

by Jack Heifner
Directed by Rich Rubin
April 4 – 21, 2012
Quince Productions
Walnut Street Theater Studio 5
825 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

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