Saturday, December 13, 2014

Happy Holidays from THE DESK SET

The rumors are true: I'm going to be appearing in a play next summer for the first time in years. I'll be playing the supporting role of Elsa and serving as Dance Captain in a production of the classic 1950s office comedy The Desk Set, by William Marchant. The production will be directed by Stuart Bousel, produced by No Nude Men, and presented at the EXIT Theatre in San Francisco.

Above is a photo of the full cast (I'm standing, second from the right). The Desk Set takes place around Christmastime and though our production happens in July, we decided to start our promotional campaign early by doing a holiday-themed photo!

We also took photos of smaller groups of characters. Below are the four main women: Jeunee Simon as Sadel, Kitty Torres as Ruthie, Megan Briggs as Peg, Allison Page as Bunny.

Here I am with my fellow supporting women: Carina Lastimosa Salazar as Miss Warriner and Lisa Drostova as the Mysterious Lady. I am wearing one of my grandma's cocktail dresses from the '50s. It always amazes me that she had such a va-va-voom dress (there is a nude-colored fabric lining underneath the black lace, and the illusion is quite realistic in person) but Elsa is the office sexpot, so it's character-appropriate! Though also a little strange -- I have never played a sexpot or had to do a stage kiss before.
And here are our handsome gentlemen: Abhi Kris as Mr. Bennett, Andrew Calabrese as "Shirtsleeves," Nick Trengove as Abe, Alejandro Emmanuel Torres as Kenny, and Alan Coyne as Richard.

Randomly and bizarrely, we discovered that a teenage Barbra Streisand played my role, Elsa, in a summer stock production of The Desk Set just a few years after the original Broadway production. Here's a picture from the office-party scene of that production; Barbra is dancing, second from right.

And if you want to know the plot of Desk Set or what I think of it as a play, here's the review I wrote on Goodreads.

The Desk Set: A Comedy In Three Acts by William Marchant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For a mid-century, middlebrow comedy, The Desk Set is kind of a bizarre play. On the one hand, it's loaded with 1950s kitsch: female employees running out of the office midday to buy party dresses at Bonwit's; jokes about philandering executives and sexpot secretaries; a rather un-PC joke about Mexicans. The main character is a super-smart, capable, acerbic woman named Bunny (something that really puzzled me when I saw the film version as a child -- how could the no-nonsense Katharine Hepburn play a woman with such a silly name?) who spends a bit too much time hoping that her boss/boyfriend, who's clearly not as awesome as she is, will put a ring on it.

On the other hand, The Desk Set is a play about four intelligent working women who fear that they are going to be replaced by a computer, which is a surprisingly modern problem. The depiction of Richard, the character who wants to install computers in the office, also feels perceptive about how "techies" behave: he's not a bad guy, but he's kind of single-minded and socially awkward. While the play has a happy ending that suggests that people and technology can coexist, 21st-century audiences may find it a little more poignant than originally intended. After all, the women in the play work for the research department of a broadcasting company, where their job is to do fact-checking and answer queries like "What are the names of Santa's reindeer?" (The play takes place around Christmas.) But these days, you can just pull out your iPhone and ask Siri.

All photos (except for the Streisand one) by Cody Rishell.

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