The Vagabond | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Vagabond, City Lit Theater Company. Sexually omnivorous and fiercely independent, Colette was one of the most fascinating women of the 20th century. And she wrote some 80 works--fiction, essays, and memoirs--that reflected her at times shocking life. The 1910 La vagabonde was one such autobiographical novel, based on the eight years Colette spent as a performer in French music halls in the early 1900s.

Kelly Nespor's stage adaptation for City Lit is less prurient than the novel, but Krishna Sallman and Nathan Vogt do strike sparks as Renee (Colette's alter ego) and her swain Maxime. Renee, an actress, must choose between her love for Maxime--and wealth--and her love of performance and adventure. But for the audience there's no competition: Vogt's gallant is an explosive draw compared with the mechanical performances of those in the music hall (with the exception of Erin Kathleen Carlson as a wide-eyed but saucy tart). At first Sallman's Renee is too timorous, but once Vogt enters she becomes the vivacious, teasing seductress Colette herself must have been.

A few cuts by director Ann Shanahan in the interminable scenes of the company touring would be welcome, though they do contain some of the play's most poignant moments--Renee's letters to Maxime, delivering her thoughts on beauty and aging in Colette's own words.

--Jennifer Vanasco

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