Debutante., written by Ryann Weir and directed by Anne Tippe, is the story of three teenage heiresses during the weeks preceding their all-important society debut. The play is equal parts Oscar Wilde, taking a mocking but affectionate approach to the existence of such privileged, isolated creatures, and John Hughes, being quintessentially 1980s in its references to Jazzercise and Dynasty.
The cast contains a number of formidable actresses and is a great example of why more female-centered stories should be shared. Brenda (Elizabeth Alderfer), perhaps the most traditional of the three girls, struggles with her parents’ expectation that she marry her social equal Bill (Ben Otto); her life is further complicated when she finds passion and a fellow aficionado of Dynasty in new student Mirza (Eshan Bay).
In dealing with the aftermath of a family tragedy, Barbara (Keilly McQuail) begins to rebel against the strictures under which she was raised and seeks to becomes more capable and self-reliant. The trio is rounded out by Frankie (Anna Abhau Elliott), a quirky character who will stop at nothing to spend the summer at a Vermont camp with her beloved horse, even awkwardly curtsy her way through weeks of a dull etiquette course.
Debutante. is punctuated by the girls’ classes with Ms. Peasgood (Liza de Weerd), where their progress, or lack thereof, allows for some of the production’s most entertaining moments. Maria Hooper’s simple costumes greatly help to set the mood of 1980s teenage culture; the girls’ powder pink pleated skirts and blazers are particularly adorable and symbolic of their youth and immaturity. Like the central characters, Debutante. is thoughtful, humorous, and charming, making it a quick, highly enjoyable 85 minutes of theatre.
Debutante is playing at the Upper West Side’s Bernie Wohl Center through May 10th and tickets can be purchased here for $15.
*Images via Bailey Carr