Talented cast in OpenStage, etc. production of “Ultimate Beauty Bible”.
Reviewed by Tom Jones
October 15, 2016
Three young millennials, working for the same high-end fashion magazine, get together for cocktails; with the idea they are renewing friendships which began when they interned together at the magazine following college. They are an unusual trio: a blond, a brunette, and a redhead, sitting in a bar or cocktail lounge, dressed to the nines, and attempting to be gracious and loving while their friendship, if there ever was one, is shallow as a saucer.
Teal Jandrain plays Tiffany, the blonde over-achiever, who now lives in lower Manhattan, “with a beautiful view of the water.” Molly McGuire and Shannon Nicole Light are Danielle and Lee, the brunette, and redhead. They share an apartment uptown, rarely seeing each other after work, as their lives have become conquests of what guys they can pick up nightly. This is an unusual trio. Danielle announces that she has cancer. She is devastated, Lee and Tiffany respond, lying through their teeth, about how much they love her, and how much care and compassion they will show her. The other woman in the cast is Kayla Ibarra in dual roles — one who wants to be part of the insular group in the office, and the other with desires to be a top model.
On the other side of the spectrum are three guys with varying degrees of the same basic theme. Kit, played by Nick Holland, appears to have a more solid foundation. Holland is great as the “nice guy” who goes to bed with Danielle after meeting her in a bar. Trent Sawyer is very good in dual roles. He is super as the telephone responder with the pharmaceutical company who answers Dannielle’s calls about her medical treatment. Sawyer also turns up as “some guy” who hankers for buffalo wings and not much else.
The premise is a sad indictment of what has happened to society in general. The women’s goals appear to be efforts to outdo the other at work and in the bedroom. The magazine they work for, “Crimp,” becomes the plays title as the “Ultimate Beauty Bible.” Every word and photograph in the magazine appear after a grueling test of what sees light of day.
Danielle’s medical despair is the most developed aspect of the plot. Molly McGuire is excellent in the role, looking for hope in seemingly hopeless situation. She is so convincing that her portrayal resulted in some second-act silent tears in the audience.
This is a brand new play from a young playwright carrying the Millennial voice. Author, Caroline V. McGraw, has written several plays, and is the graduate of the Playwriting MFA program at the Yale School of Drama.
Director Natalie Scarlett manages to keep the story flowing while the cast spends much of their time setting up rectangular black boxes which are moved to make tables, chairs, desks, etc. This is all done within a few feet of the audience who are sitting on all four sides of the performance area in the Fort Collins Center for Fine Art Photography.
The brief printed program notes: “An OpenStage Theatre, etcetera endeavor, produces raw, intimate, cutting-edge theatre in non-traditional spaces.” This endeavor is evident, as the language sometimes sounds like the writer is in competition with herself as to how many uses she can make of one specific profanity. The setting is interesting, although not welcoming, and as stark as the lives the fashion magazine women are living.
This is a sobering tale of a basically phony world. The acting is terrific, as we watch the talented cast claw their way to find some basic happiness in a cruel environment. We haven’t seen such high-end fashion antics since Meryl Streep tormented Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt a few years ago in “The Devil Wears Prada.”
“Ultimate Beauty Bible”
A production of OpenStage, etc
Where: The Center for Fine Art Photography
400 North Main Street, Fort Collins, CO
When: Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. to October 29, 2016
For more information: 970/221-6730