Review of The Last Flapper

Christy Bishop portrays Zelda Fitzgerald in this one-woman show by William Luce with as much virtuosity, as much invention and commitment as one will ever see on stage. Anywhere. The performance is, simply put, great. How much of the credit goes to Bishop and how much to director Frances Davis, only they know, but the fact that one strand cannot be told from another indicates the seamless achievement of the production.

For $8, every audience member gets to sit within three rows of the stage and take in work that is not just remarkable for Waynesville, but remarkable anywhere. I’d say that work at the Feichter should be much better known, except that would make it harder to score the limited number of tickets. Maybe we should keep it as a glorious Western Carolina secret, like your favorite café or your cherished grove along the Shut-In Trail.

A play like The Last Flapper is not easy to put across. Because poor Zelda is insane, she can be made to veer from topic to topic, mood to mood like — well, like a crazy person. Bishop makes every one of these transitions clear-cut. There’s never a doubt when she’s lucidly present and when she’s elsewhere. Even raving, her diction is crisp. The hard-working woman must need to lie down after every performance.

The play itself is a bit of a problem, though, for it’s clearly designed to show off an actress’s chops and not really to say anything substantive about Zelda, or Scott, or Hemingway (who is mentioned in order to be called a fairy, repeatedly), or any of the brilliant people cast in their lives. They are dropped names, snotty implications. Luce repeats, or perhaps originates, the grotesque libel that Zelda wrote the short stories which F. Scott Fitzgerald then stole and published under his own name. Who wouldn’t believe a crazy woman in the throes of her last sickness, gushing with mad candor and having no reason to lie? Too many axes are being ground a little too loudly.

Zelda, by the way, burned to death at Asheville’s Highland Hospital (then a mental institution), an incident she implies is happening about half an hour before the end of the show. Must have been a very slow fire.

Oh, and one line Zelda utters that only a local audience can fully appreciate: “I have GOT to get out of Asheville, North Carolina!”

Following a sold-out weekend, HART has extended the run of The Last Flapper. Additional performances are Friday, Feb. 11 and Saturday, Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday Feb. 13 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $8 for all adults and $5 for students. Reservations at 456-6322. Feichter Studio Theatre, 250 Pigeon Street, Waynesville.

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