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Vanity Fair

From 22 critic and 216 member reviews
Members say: Clever, Entertaining, Great acting, Ambitious, Funny

About the show

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. More…

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.'

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

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

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

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

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


“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


"'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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


"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

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 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


"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


“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

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

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

Enchanting, Exquisite, Great acting, Innovative

See it if you want a show that's like a pint-sized version of the RSC's "Nicholas Nickleby." The imagination involved dazzles. Never a dull moment!

Don't see it if you like a fully staged, reverent production. There's a lot of sass here - just like it's heroine - to move the plot along.

Clever, Delightful, Entertaining, Great acting, Funny

See it if OMG. OMG. OMG! Run do not walk to see this brilliant adaptation of Vanity Fair. Best thing I've seen all year! You will thank me!

Don't see it if You can't sit for 2 hrs and 45 min. Or if you have no sense of humor. This was a theatrical tour de force! WOW!!!!!!!!!!!

Ambitious, Great acting, Funny, Clever, Must see

See it if You liked Bedlam's Sense and Sensibility

Don't see it if You don't like classic literature or British drama

Enchanting, Funny, Great staging, Resonant, Ambitious

See it if U're fascinated by a thick classic turned into a condensed version modern musical that amazes with versatility, talent, adaptation & staging

Don't see it if U don't like modern tweaks to classics. U are not amused by campy satires.

Also Absolutely brilliant take on a beloved classic with moral of the story... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Entertaining, Great acting, Great writing, Masterful

See it if you enjoy complex characters and fun staging.

Don't see it if classical pieces with modern flair.

Delightful, Intelligent, Great staging, Entertaining, Clever

See it if you like stylized, theatrical productions. This show is wonderful - Thackeray's novel told in a way that only theater can.

Don't see it if you don't like stylized, theatrical productions, if you only like kitchen sink realism.

Clever, Great acting, Great staging, Quirky, Refreshing

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.

Clever, Funny, Great acting, Hilarious, Quirky

See it if You enjoy a good comedy, enjoy great acting and a really fun play with several hilarious moments. Fantastic off Broadway play. Must see.

Don't see it if You don't like quirky comedies.

Clever, Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Great staging

See it if the thought of a witty race through Thackeray at a dizzy speed that would appall the more ponderous Stanley Kubrick delights you

Don't see it if you'd be unduly distressed by contemporary dance moves/music that have nothing to do with the story..or by fart jokes.

Also This one is really fun. I'm a huge fan of Thackeray's most famous nove... Read more Read less

Clever, Funny, Great acting, Great staging, Delightful

See it if Love what Eric Tucker does. I'm a true fan and you will see such a creative interpretation of an old classic. Actually it's a wild romp.

Don't see it if If you want the classics to stay classic..You need to be ready for anything out-of-the box for this one. Still laughing bout twists & turns

Absorbing, Ambitious, Clever, A feast for bedlam fans, Funny

See it if you enjoyed Bedlam's "Sense and Sensibility." This production is directed by Eric Tucker, and he brings his unique sensibility to the play.

Don't see it if you are not a fan of Bedlam's inventive staging and small casts playing a variety of roles.

Also Eric Tucker (director) and Kate Hamill (playwright and actor) are reun... Read more Read less

Clever, Delightful, Entertaining, Great acting, Great staging

See it if you want to be entertained by top notch performances, great writing, and clever staging. The Pearl has done it again. Do not miss this.

Don't see it if you are an idiot! Seriously, this is as funny and clever as it can be. It ain't the dry as dust Vanity Fair you read in high school. Go, GO!

Delightful, Clever, Funny, Dizzying, Profound

See it if Wonderful mix of a farce and a serious drama. A circus of human desires for us to contemplate. When it gets too serious, mayhem erupts.

Don't see it if You won't enjoy a satire of 19th century British society, with a cheeky narrator breaking the fourth wall.

Also Loved the intricate staging and over-the-top characters. My favorite c... Read more Read less

Clever, Entertaining, Funny, Great writing, Must see

See it if You want to see a really compelling story about two women's alternative rise and fall in fortune. It's surprisingly thought-provoking.

Don't see it if You don't enjoy a scrappy staging done on a budget: the costumes and sets and props are all ridiculous and cheap, which is part of its charm

Clever, Great acting, Masterful, Intelligent, Must see

See it if original, fresh adaptation. Cast is beyond talented playing more than one role at the same time and doing it with elegance and ease.

Don't see it if you don't like classics or have a hard time following actors playing many characters

Delightful, Ambitious, Fantabulous

See it if U enjoy a once in a life time ride taking u thru a long book with song, comedy, choreography all without forsaking drama making 2,5 hrs fly

Don't see it if u don't want 2 c a brilliant actor/writer transform a victorian novel w/ great ensemble acting, unique staging & FANTASTICdirection into joy

Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining, Great acting, Great staging

See it if Brilliant and entertaining show that brings VANITY FAIR to life. Superb acting and storytelling and both audiences and actors have a ball.

Don't see it if You like you classics to "classically" staged.

Clever, Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You want an extremely well done show that is funny and has a complex, engaging plot. It definitely lets you into the minds of the actors!

Don't see it if You don't want to sit through a few screaming scenes. You want a show that is easy to follow. You don't want to have to think while watching

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

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

Delightful, Masterful, Hilarious

See it if Like a fast paced play with a wide range of emotions displayed including much comic relief

Don't see it if You like straight drama or a short slow moving play.

Delightful, Clever, Enchanting, Entertaining, Quirky

See it if You like clever experimentation with plays based on classic books.

Don't see it if You prefer traditional productions.

Best acting ensemble i've seen in years! dynamic performances., Ambitious, A joy to look at and be dazzled at tims, Dynamic staging!

See it if Fun, joyous, committed cast. Good fun times is what you want. Can be slightly confusing, but it's a speedy amalgam of extremely good acting

Don't see it if You need to follow every single turn in the script, you might miss one or two.

Great acting, Great writing, Hilarious, Refreshing, 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.

Great acting, Hilarious, Refreshing, Clever, Delightful

See it if You like updated classics with humor and satire. Not quite as original as the playwright's Sense and Sensibility, this is still a romp!

Don't see it if You prefer Masterpiece Classic style English costume dramas.

Ambitious, Great acting, Delightful, Clever, Epic

See it if you like Bedlam productions and want to see what can be done with a 19th century classic. If you liked Sense and Sensibility.

Don't see it if you won't enjoy a circus-like interpretation of a literary classic.