L to R: Mary (Melanie Nielsen), Kathy (Crescent Muhammed) and Joanne (Terri Conatore), 1963
L to R: Kathy (Crescent Muhammed), Joanne (Terri Conatore), and Mary (Melanie Nielsen), 1968
L to R: Joanne (Terri Conatore), Mary (Melanie Nielsen), and Kathy (Crescent Muhammed), 1974
Apr 16-May 02, 2010
No Strings Theatre Company presents "Vanities" by Jack Heifner, directed by Jim Eckman. "Vanities" runs through Sunday, May 2 at the Black Box Theatre, 430 N Downtown Mall in Las Cruces. "Vanities" first appeared off Broadway in 1976 and enjoyed a three year run. It is a delightfully funny look at the lives of three young women growing up in rural America. They are "best friends" in high school. They've been together since elementary school and expect to be "best friends" for life. The audience soon realizes they have little in common in their approach to life and while their priorities seem the same they are really quite different. The show is a not so flattering look at the lives of these women. We've all known women like these three and perhaps didn't really like them all that well. Now we get to laugh at them.
The first scene takes place in a high school gymnasium, in 1963. Joanne (Terri Conatore) is a hilarious but lovable ditz with over-the-top mannerisms who is totally concerned that everything is done right but can do little right herself. Mary (Melanie Nielsen) is the wild one of the group. For her it's all about boys, fun and little else. Kathy (Crescent Muhammad) is the great organizer, the one who plans the best parties and is head cheerleader. Their naive comical interaction is cut short when their principal announces the death of President Kennedy.
In scene two, set in 1968 in a Sorority House, the differences between the characters become more pronounced. The three women will soon graduate from college and are planning for their futures and for their sorority's spring rush. Wild Mary is going to Europe to experience life. Joanne is only interested in getting married, and organizer Kathy is grappling with her career choice and overcoming a broken heart.
The last scene is in a New York City garden apartment, summer, 1974. The women no longer have much in common at all. Joanne has become the happy (or maybe not) homemaker. Mary is the laughably flamboyant purveyor of "Erotic Art", and Kathy has finally learned to stop trying to control her life and just relax and enjoy it.
In 2008 Vanities was rewritten into a musical by Jack Heifner and David Kirshenbaum. It enjoyed a brief run in California and in 2009 opened on Broadway in New York. The last act of the play was set in 1974, but Heifner has written a new ending for the musical which reveals that the women are still important to one another at the end of the 1980s.
"The original ending, which was more cynical, was a reflection of its time," said Heifner. "I know now, more than 30 years later, that friendships do last."
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