Versatile actors help make ACT’s ‘Vanity Fair’ a big success

American Conservatory Theater’s production of “Vanity Fair” is a constant source of fascination, admiration and often amusement thanks to Kate Hamill’s adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s sprawling mid-19th century novel.

Directed by Jessica Stone in a co-production with Washington, D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company, it uses seven actors to portray dozens of characters.

The only actors with one role are Rebekah Brockman as Becky Sharp and Maribel Martinez as her friend, Amelia Sedley.

Set in London starting in 1814, this production is framed as a show at the Strand Musick Hall, where the Manager (Dan Hiatt) is the emcee and narrator.

Becky comes from a middle class family with little money while Amelia comes from a wealthy family. Becky is determined to ascend the social ladder, starting by marrying a rich man.

Eventually she does marry such a man, Rawdon (Adam Magill), a captain in the English army. She also finds favor with his maiden aunt, Matilda Crawley (Hiatt at his most humorous).

In the meantime, Amelia marries another English soldier, George (Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan), while his fellow soldier, William Dobbin (Anthony Michael Lopez), falls in love with her, too.

Later, Amelia’s stockbroker father, Mr. Sedley (Magill), goes bankrupt when the market crashes because of jitters over the possibility of war with Napoleon and the French.

Over time, Amelia’s position improves while Becky’s sinks. Still, she’s a survivor.

There’s much more to the story than that, but the playwright, director and versatile cast keep everything clear.

Besides those already mentioned, the cast includes Vincent Randazzo.

Everyone is noteworthy, but Hiatt is especially outstanding in his multiple roles, both male and female.

Helping to keep the action fluid is Alexander Dodge’s ingenious set, with lighting by David Weiner. The sometimes quick-change period costumes are by Jennifer Moeller.

Choreography by Connor Gallagher and music by sound designer Jane Shaw add to the enjoyment, starting from the first scene, when the cast sings and dances.

As the opening night audience left the theater, there were many exclamations of approval and enjoyment.

Running about two and a half hours with one intermission, “Vanity Fair” will continue through May 12 at ACT’s Geary Theater, 415 Geary St., San Francisco.

For tickets and information, call (415) 749-2228 or visit






About the Author

Judy RichterJudy reviews San Francisco Bay Area theater and writes feature articles about activities of the Stanford women's basketball team and Fast Break Club. A longtime Bay Area journalist, she is retired from the San Francisco Chronicle, where she was a writer and copy editor.View all posts by Judy Richter →