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Vanity Fair

Members say: Clever, Entertaining, Great acting, Ambitious, Funny
79
Critics
76
22 reviews
Members
79
215 reviews
 

The Pearl Theatre Company presents a new stage adaptation of William Thackeray’s classic 19th-century novel, which exposes a society that cares more for good birth and good manners than skill.

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Becky Sharp, poor, plain, and devilishly clever, is determined to defy the odds through risky romantic entanglements, shady business practices, and social climbing at any cost. She won’t stop until the world lies at her feet. Adapted by and starring Kate Hamill, who wrote and performed in the award-winning 'Sense & Sensibility.'

 



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Reviews (237)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
76
Avg Score

65
Theatermania

"Thackeray's delicious wit and satirical side-winks often get lost in this ambitious, sometimes unfocused translation...More straightforward storytelling might have better served this almost three-hour-long production. The actors never fail to impress as they race about the stage and deliver some truly inspired moments...But more often than not, the hit-and-miss jokes let the air out of this colorful balloon of a show, and the second act becomes downright dour." Full Review

70
The New York Times

"Ms. Hamill and Mr. Tucker’s 'Vanity Fair' is a breathless thing and often too hectic. But this show is a gift to actors and a goody bag for its audience...Mr. Tucker encourages the actors to indulge themselves. But they’re having such a high old time that their pleasure is infectious. Less successful are the direct-address monologues Ms. Hamill has interpolated, which state themes too baldly, and dance sequences set to the likes of 'Thriller,' which blare the play’s contemporary bona fides." Full Review

75
Lighting & Sound America

"Hamill has performed a highly efficient act of distillation, exposing the solid structure underlying Thackeray's sprawling satire...Aided by a nimble company of seven, Hamill and Tucker roll out scene after scene right out of a satiric engraving in Punch...I hasten to add that Tucker, who never can let well enough alone, does from time to time indulge himself...These moments are soon over...This production never lets us forget that Thackeray's satire routinely cuts too close for comfort." Full Review

80
The Huffington Post

"Hamill had a remarkable and deserved success adapting 'Sense and Sensibility' and she’s done it again here...The direction, the acting, the tech elements all work in concert but above all it’s the canny script of Hamill that shines. She captures the sweep of the novel and its many ideas with spot-on choices...If the evening is more intellectually stimulating than emotionally gripping, ultimately that’s due to the limitations of what Thackeray created in his Punch & Judy of a morality tale." Full Review

65
Theatre's Leiter Side

“This is theatre having fun with itself as a game people play, using familiar props in unfamiliar ways, and openly sharing its performance with the audience...This works in limited amounts but...it becomes a self-defeating device that deflates interest in the material it's meant to serve...The cast...shows good humor, versatility, and intelligence but the demands of making their characters engagingly real while also subjecting them to so many audience-distancing japeries proves insuperable.” Full Review

95
The Wall Street Journal

“Ms. Hamill’s ‘Vanity Fair,’ which is being performed to coruscatingly brilliant effect by the Pearl Theatre Company, is a masterpiece of creative compression that is at once arrestingly original and faithful to its source material…The quick-change shape-shifting of the cast, the outrageous physical comedy of the staging, the startlingly witty use of props: All are Mr. Tucker’s now-familiar trademarks, and all add immeasurably to the show’s impact...Really ought to transfer to Broadway.” Full Review

85
BroadwayWorld

"'Vanity Fair' has a little bit of everything to make it one of the most intriguing adaptations of a novel I have ever seen...Becky is such a fascinating character, and watching Kate Hamill in this role was such a pleasure...That is not to undermine the extremely talented cast that joins her in the telling of this story: individuals that each play a myriad of interesting characters with such vigor and conviction, they make it look easy." Full Review

70
CurtainUp

"Even with an ideal space for Bedlam's style of classic adaptions and scenic designer Sandra Goldmark on board to support Eric Tucker's directorial vision, wrestling Thackeray's epic character and plot-stuffed novel into a manageable stage work is a daunting undertaking...This production will be richest for those who are familiar with the novel...Tucker helps make the character and scene shifts seem effortless...But it's hardly enough time to do justice to this doorstop-sized classic." Full Review

85
Front Mezz Junkies

"A clever and creative adaptation...It’s a stellar reframing of a puppet play for a modern audience who may be bored by the straightforward historical approach to such classics, and need a little Bedlam in their drama. Emotionally it’s a bit distant, but it makes up for that with frivolity and fun...A smart and excellent portrayal by Hamill full of slyness, wit, and style." Full Review

85
TheaterScene.net

“Thackeray's 784-page novel on love, money and social climbing has been adapted into a concise and cogent stage play by Kate Hamill, who has also given herself a magnificent role as she previously did in her Jane Austen adaptation. Director Eric Tucker has obtained the most out of his accomplished and skillful cast. This ‘Vanity Fair’ is a TKO putting a seemingly huge and unadaptable 19th-century novel front and center on the stage of the Pearl Theatre. Thackeray would be pleased.” Full Review

40
Woman Around Town

“Clamorous incomprehension...Some of the actors play it straight, others are so over-the-top one winces at every appearance…Direction is as uneven as acting. It’s as if the production can’t make up its mind…Hamill creates a Becky Sharp with less grace, charm or seductive attributes–virtually everything that enabled the character to rise–than insistence…The play is periodically entertaining, but chaotic (not freewheeling) in a style I find too often self-defeating.” Full Review

90
Front Row Center

"Ms. Hamill’s play gives us a vivid, panoramic satire of English men and women striving to rise through marriage or inheritance...The production is imaginatively staged...Ms. Hamill, in addition to being a terrific adaptor of text for the stage, is also an actress of great strength and charm...The entire acting company deserves high praise for creating engaging, often deeply humorous, compelling characters." Full Review

75
Wolf Entertainment Guide

"An eye-catching, attention-grabbing show that, although too long, lives up to Hamill’s conception with effectiveness. The trade-off is that while one can admire the acting, the costumes, the effects and the overall impact, this is not an approach that can engender very deep pro and con feelings for the characters, who mostly one-dimensionally play out their respective lives...My greatest pleasure was watching Hamill make the most of her role as Becky. She is exceptionally talented." Full Review

85
Theatre is Easy

“Hilarious…The ensemble cast is uniformly excellent. The male actors skillfully play multiple roles…Hamill is pitch-perfect as the feisty and flinty heroine…As a writer, Hamill has made some inspired changes to Thackeray’s novel…'Vanity Fair' isn't perfect. I could have done with less of the passing gas humor, done as a group effort—but it got laughs, so what do I know…But these are minor quibbles…A fresh, fast-paced, and wildly entertaining take.” Full Review

75
Off Off Online

“The Pearl’s seven-member cast is a well-oiled ensemble…All the actors are adept at transforming themselves…The principal weakness of this 'Vanity Fair' is its stylistic indecisiveness…Hamill and Tucker have invested this 'Vanity Fair' with theatrical gusto, a sense of contemporary relevance, and a full measure of merriment. If 21st-century irony, the prevailing voice of Bedlam, drowns out Thackeray’s dryly satiric take on Regency England, that’s unlikely to matter to most playgoers.” Full Review

45
ZEALnyc

“The satirical tone of the story can wear thin...Yes, it’s imaginative—just getting seven people to play 20 or 25 or 30 roles requires heroic imagination and energy, and Kate Hamill, the author and star, and Eric Tucker, the director, are nothing if not imaginative. But there’s something amiss…This work curdles more than charms...It’s ambitious, very ambitious. But it doesn’t live up to its ambitions." Full Review

95
Off Script with Dan Dwyer

"Ms. Hamill, among Off-Broadway’s most intelligent young playwrights, and Mr. Tucker, among its most inventive directors, team up again, distilling Thackeray’s novel to vivid, contemporary expression...An exemplar of making the literary theatrical. I’ll go even further and declare that 'Vanity Fair' is what theatre is all about, even if, at every turn, Hamill, Tucker and company are asking—so entertainingly, so disarmingly—'Who are YOU to judge?'" Full Review

80
This Week in New York Blog

"Hamill takes a decidedly feminist approach to 'Vanity Fair,' which is particularly fitting in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s loss...Hamill has streamlined Thackeray’s novel into a treatise on judging morality, no matter the era. She plays Becky as a strong-minded 'Nasty Woman' who believes she is capable of anything. Parsons is terrific as the demure Emmy...The five other actors all expertly play multiple roles, both male and female, blurring gender lines while also making fun of them." Full Review

85
Theater Pizzazz

"Great and glorious, equal parts cabaret, circus and non-judgmental morality play...Go see the play. It’s fun, interesting and often even touching...Kate Hamill, the adapter and star, and Eric Tucker, the director, are a smashing duo, as in turning classic stories into theatrical smash hits...I thought the second act could have been cut slightly. As for Eric Tucker’s direction, triple wows for turning an ancient classic into a fun show with a considerable undercoating of content." Full Review

90
Philadelphia Inquirer

“A marvelous production…Except for the two women, the rest of the wildly accomplished cast play multiple roles. They all shift from character to character and gender to gender, with high-precision timing…Directed by Eric Tucker with a featherlight touch and a lively tempo, it becomes all the more remarkable that we are, from time to time, caught up in the plot, moved by events, worried about the characters’ fortunes, and eager to know what happens next.” Full Review

45
Edge New York

"As much as the production attempts to energize itself with movement, it fails to do so...Ironically, despite its best efforts, the play drags at moments, and part of the fault lies in the writing of the play itself. Hamill's adaptation is unfortunately overwritten...The main problem in this adaptation: the amount of time it spends telling its audience what to and what not to think of its characters...Despite the script's problems, Hamill is still a delight to watch as Becky Sharpe.": Full Review

85
New York Critic Blog

"It’s a terrific production, altogether satisfying...Eric Tucker directs with enormous precision and humor. The stage is constantly animated. The pace never flags and we never weary of these 19th-century characters who behave so badly and are so like us...There are moments when the playwright throws rather too much at us at once, and we’re confused. But The Pearl Theatre Company has mounted a great success." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
79
Avg Score

70
Ambitious, Edgy, Confusing, Disappointing, Overrated

See it if you like dramatic adaptations of (very confusing and long) novels, and cast members playing multiple characters.

Don't see it if you don't like inventive staging, and incongruous incorporations of modern song/dance into a play (it was weird).

75
Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy classic theatre with some modern revelations. A fun night at the theatre!

Don't see it if You don't particularly care for reimaginings of older books.

80
Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Slow, Great staging

See it if you like Kate Hamill's style of adaptation or are interested in old novels being reimagined in contemporary ways!

Don't see it if you don't like old stories or the original novel

79
Great acting, Intelligent, Slow, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you want to see something different. The play was well done, a little too long in some places, but I am happy I got to see it.

Don't see it if you can't sit through a play that is over 2 1/2 hours long. They had some great concepts in the story, but still just a little too long.

80
Funny, Delightful

See it if you like surprise song and dance inserted into a very traditional show

Don't see it if na

83
Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Quirky, Confusing

See it if You like the old English classics revived and revised. Clever use of casting, large productions.

Don't see it if You want lighter fare, straight forward productions of older works.

73
Funny, Quirky, Entertaining

See it if you enjoy period pieces dealing with class differences and the different options of women in early 19th century's British society.

Don't see it if you are not interested in class issues, women's different approaches to social positions or prefer modern settings and stories.

86
Absorbing, Entertaining

See it if A fresh presentation of a classic book that manages to convey the entire tale of Becky Sharp.

Don't see it if English literature isn't you favorite subject and a scheming woman will wear on you.

90
Great acting, Refreshing, Great writing, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if you want a fresh, creative theater experience. Funny, quirky, even moving at times, my only regret is waiting so late in the run to see it.

Don't see it if you need staid, traditional, risk-averse theater. This ain't that.

48
Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Disappointing

See it if You enjoy shows that parallel older texts with contemporary themes.

Don't see it if You dislike unintelligible actors, patchy casting, and pieces that fail to live up to their predecessor.

85
Ambitious, Intelligent, Refreshing, Great staging, Quirky, inventive

See it if you want to see a classic novel turned into an inventive staging with wonderful performances and almost vaudeville style performances.

Don't see it if you don't like stage adaptations of classic English novels that are long with actors playing multiple characters.

81
Clever, Enchanting, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if You enjoy old English theater pieces. Nothing about human nature has changed. People choose a version of what to do to survive at all cost.

Don't see it if You don't like English theater with phony morees and manners.

65
Funny, Slow, Fluffy

See it if you know the story or like period pieces with unique performance aspects.

Don't see it if you're looking for something to live up to the previous Sense & Sensibility.

88
You're so vain

See it if cute and high energy is enough for a prestige literary work's stage adaptation.

Don't see it if dancing and current music is too modern for your aesthetic.

Also Theater is in the middle of nowhere. Parsons always a major delight. O... Read more Read less

75
Ambitious, Quirky, Refreshing, Entertaining, Great cast and staging

See it if Open to a spirited company's free, entertaining and oddly right staging that revels in and uses high theatricality to cut through to truth.

Don't see it if You think classics shouldn't be tampered with, even if the tampering cuts through to the spirit, essence and intent of the original.

Also It's true that this Vanity Fair isn't for everyone, and it's also true... Read more Read less

82
Absorbing, Great acting, Quirky, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if Enjoy a cleverly written period piece injected with current dance moves.

Don't see it if Do not like long productions, or if you expect period pieces to remain true to their period.

66
Clever, Slow, Witty, Overly long, Frenzied

See it if you want a truly inventive theatrical approach to a classic of western literature. Fun, high energy - albeit often frenetic - adaptation.

Don't see it if you want depth or great insight. The piece - adapted from a classic novel - paints in broad strokes. Characters reduced to expressions.

78
Ambitious, Intelligent, Entertaining

See it if You appreciate an interesting take on a classic piece of literature.

Don't see it if You want traditional story telling

80
Ambitious, Delightful, Dizzying, Great acting, Quirky

See it if liked "Sense and Sensibility" at Judson last year.

Don't see it if If you think Becky was ever sweet

95
Clever, Great acting, Quirky, Refreshing, Great staging

See it if You want to see a fresh, engaging take on a classic. The idea of a slighty-raunchier Jane Austen-type story appeals to you.

Don't see it if You don't like period pieces - or conversely, you need your period pieces to be 100% time-accurate. Some great anachronistic moments here.

84
Ambitious, Quirky, Indulgent, Uneven, Cheeky

See it if you're ready for irreverent, tongue-in-cheek drama that occasionally lags but is performed with great spirit & are amenable to modern twists

Don't see it if you're expecting a traditional production & dislike characters breaching the fourth wall or playing multiple roles including across gender.

63
Funny, Quirky, Indulgent, Entertaining

See it if Based on the novel, this is an ambitious play that involves an inventive staging. The cast delivers but it can be confusing.

Don't see it if Small casts playing multiple roles confuse you.

92
Dizzying, Great acting, Intense, Must see, Great staging

See it if you love great theater that renders a classic text with such ingenuity that it enhances its meaning and makes it mesmerizing

Don't see it if the zaniness and kinetics are too much for your brain to process, which should only be the case for very few among us

Also Sometimes the speed and mobility of the characters was so intense my a... Read more Read less

90
Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if You want a fresh take on a classic novel with splendid acting.

Don't see it if You want a short play that's action-packed and you don't want to listen to much dialogue.

Also I think Kate Hamill is amazing. I loved her Sense and Sensibility even... Read more Read less

90
Funny, Ambitious, Edgy, Intelligent

See it if You liked Bedlam Theater's Sense & Sensibility. You like deconstructed classics done with intelligence, understanding and tongue in cheek.

Don't see it if You don't want your classics messed with. You don't like current references in classic works.