Class, Discrimination, and Life's Unexpected Turns are Portrayed in Scripps Ranch's Latest Production:

Vanity Fair. Currently Playing Until June 16 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Mashun Tucker, Dagmar Krause Fields, Mikaela Rae Macias, Parth Kichloo, Sara Blanche Hayes, Justin Lang and Alyssa Anne Austin. Photo Ken Jacques

I have not had the chance to read William Makepeace Thackeray's novel Vanity Fair but, by the looks of Kate Hamill's adaptation for the stage, it seems like it is a juicy one. The typical European story for the American audience or well, novela containing the good rich girl and the poor orphaned one who are friends as kids and then grow up to see what trials life has for them. In the play, Amelia Sedley (Mikaela Macias) is the one who comes from money, and Becky Sharp (Alyssa Anne Austin) comes from "misfortune". The story starts with the Manager or narrator played by Dagmar Krause Fields explaining the Vanity Fair and prefacing what is about to happen with two women who just graduated from "Miss Pinkerton's Academy for Young Ladies" where money obviously played a role. Pinkerton favored Amelia and looked down on Becky. After their studies, Amelia will go back to her father (Parth Kichloo) and brother Jos (Sara Blanche Hayes) while Becky is set to be a governess in a couple of months but, until that happens, she will be staying with Amelia. As soon as they arrive, Becky sets eyes on Jos to start climbing up all the ladders but Amelia's boyfriend George (Mashun Tucker) sees right through Becky as she does him, and shoos the poor girl away. Mashun definitely performed a good scene there and Sara had good moments too that reflected the tenderness of the character as well as an internal struggle that I could not quite grasp. George is good friends with William Dobbin (Justing Lang) who falls in love with Amelia as soon as he meets her. While doing her governess job, Becky meets Rawdon Crawley (Parth Kichloo), and they become an item that is practically up to no good swindling people through card games and bets. Both Becky and Amelia become pregnant by their significant others and as time passes during the Napoleonic wars, lives and fortunes are lost, destiny's turn, and truths are revealed. 

Dagmar Krause Fields and Alyssa Anne Austin. Photo Ken Jacques

I appreciated Jacquelyn Ritz's director's note on the program where she shared that this had been in the works since 2019 and how much feeling she has for the work. This is the first production I have seen of Vanity Fair, so I have no point of comparison with other versions of it. Ritz's direction reflects the care that went into the cast and works well as an ensemble that flows, definitely echoing several creative conversations about each character. 

In the performance that I saw, the second act worked way better than the first as there were some missed lines and thumps. There are also a couple of brief musical and dancing moments that I do not think worked. The singing was ok and the choreography was performed in place but it looked out of place within the story's progression. 

Another thing I appreciated, was the closeness to the audience in some scenes with some of the characters, and, the cool side of that was that each actor handled it with their own personality whether it was joking with people in the first row or even adlibbing. That definitely added to the experience regardless of where the audience's seat was as Dennis Floyd's set design had seating areas close to the audience where actors delivered lines and monologues that were beautifully lit by both Omar Ramos and Mashun Tucker's lighting design. Because the space is small and there was plenty of movement, the lighting did set the blocking nicely. Duane McGregor's props were nicely tucked in a theatre balcony-type setting where the actors would pick up or put away.

Mikaela Rae Macias. Photo Ken Jacques

Both Alyssa Anne and Mikaela Rae -who recently graduated college-, are well-set in their characters and deliver strong portrayals. Mikaela as the tender, in-love-with-love, innocent, sheltered Amelia, and, Alyssa as Becky, using the few tools she has to survive in life, alone with no one to help or protect her. She also has wordy lines that are performed right. Justin Lang has brief participations but his lines are wordy too. Aside from thinking he should book a couple of shampoo commercials or at least some hair care tutorials, Lang brought it once again to the stage and got the audience to root for William Doblin.  Dagmar Krause Fields is charming as the manager and a tad devious. She also incarnates the role of Lord Steyne who is interested in Becky and they have a strong scene charged with tension that was resolved well. Parth Kichloo did a good Rawdon with purpose and had nice chemistry with Alyssa. 

Costume design is always fun in period pieces and Marcene Drysdale's options with taffetas and satins for the ladies along with uniforms and suits for the men made for a nice fit.

Vanity Fair is entertaining and wraps the messaging behind classes, discrimination, and life's unexpected turns. How do we deal when we learn and how sometimes we stumble with the same stone over and over. 

Currently playing until June 16. For ticket prices and show times please click here

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