Scripps Ranch Theatre’s ‘Vanity Fair’ Terrifically Adapts a Classic Story

Alyssa Anne Austin and Mikaela Rae Macias (photos courtesy of Ken Jacques).

Alyssa Anne Austin and Mikaela Rae Macias (photos courtesy of Ken Jacques).

Playwright, Kate Hamill, has written several theatrical adaptations of classic novels, such as “Pride and Prejudice,” “Sense and Sensibility,” and “Little Women.” Her writing often incorporates feminist storytelling and plenty of comic relief.

Those elements are featured in Scripps Ranch Theatre’s terrific production of Vanity Fair.

Based on William Makepeace Thackeray’s book, Hamill’s script revolves around two young women in 1820s, England, a poor orphan, Becky Sharp (Alyssa Anne Austin), and her wealthy friend, Amelia Sedley (Mikaela Rae Macias). Their lives drastically change as Becky tries to climb up the social ladder, while Amelia falls in love with the selfish son of a rich banker, George Osborne (Mashun Tucker).

Hamill takes an unpretentious and modern approach to Thackery’s tale, with scenes that break the fourth wall, slapstick, and even occasionally crude humor. Her unstuffy interpretation allows audiences to connect with various characters throughout the drama.

The playwright covers more serious territory in Act Two, as the Napoleonic Wars start to affect Becky, Amelia, and those who are close to them. Although there is still a good amount of comedic moments, Hamill uses dramatic sequences that focus on class, complicated romantic relationships, and how certain people unfairly judge women, because of their circumstances.

A part of the rendition that feels a little underdeveloped is the absence of Amelia’s brother, Jos Sedley (Sara Blanche Hayes), for parts of the plot. After playing a major role in the first section of the epic show, he is then abruptly missing for large periods of time. This could be a flaw of Thackeray’s original text, since Hamill makes fun of how little Jos is on stage towards the end of the play.

Helping to tell the story is the manager (Dagmar Krause Fields), who serves as the narrator of the piece. Fields instantly commands attention with the hilarious and witty way she interacts with her co-stars and the audience.

In addition to Fields who also portrays Miss Matilda Crawley and Lord Steyne, and strong work from Austin and Macias as the polar-opposite companions, there are several co-stars who play a variety of Londoners that interact with Becky and Amelia.

Alyssa Anne Austin and Dagmar Krause Fields.

Alyssa Anne Austin and Dagmar Krause Fields.

Hayes, Tucker, Parth Kichloo, and Justin Lang each excel with comical and sincere moments during the evening.

Capturing Hamill’s playful tone is director, Jacquelyn Ritz, who keeps events moving with strong uses of music, dancing (Ritz and performers, Austin and Tucker, created the choreography), and audience participation. Ritz creatively uses music producer/DJ, PatrickReza’s, song “Choices,” as the theme song, which is wonderfully performed live by most of the cast and is included in Eliza Vedar’s audio (she created original compositions as well). The lyrics tie into the important decisions that Becky and Amelia make.

In addition to the direction and choreography, Marcene Drysdale’s 1800s-inspired costumes, Dennis Floyd’s theatrically-influenced set, and Omar Ramos’ haunting lighting, all contribute to strong visual imagery onstage.

Hamill has crafted an equally funny and earnest retelling of Vanity Fair. Even those that do not typically enjoy period-piece entertainment should find themselves loving Ritz’s staging.

Show times are Fridays at 7:00 p.m, Saturdays at 7:30 p.m, Sundays at 2:00 p.m and Monday, June 3 (Industry Night), at 7:30 p.m.

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Scripps Ranch Theatre
Legler Benbough Theatre Alliant International University 9783 Avenue of Nations San Diego California 92131 Work Phone: (858) 578-7728 Website: Scripps Ranch Theatre
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