May 2010
THE DESK SET
by William Marchant
Directed by Tim Errickson
The Spoon Theater
38 West 38th Street, 5th Floor, New York City

Stage Manager and Sound Designer:  Jeanne Travis*
Set Designer:  Rebecca Cunningham
Costume Designer:  Viviane Galloway
Lighting and Computer Designer:  Justin Sturges
Property Designers:  Heather E. Cunningham
and Casandera M. J. Lollar
Choreographer::  Mark D. Lingenfelter
Assistant Stage Manager:  Jenny Kennedy
Assistant Set Designer:  Jack Hilton Cunningham
Assistant Costume Designer:  Kathryn Squitieri
Press Representative:  Morgan Lindsey Tachco
Press Photographer:  Jordana Zeldin
Archival Photographer:  Christopher Hicken

Featuring: Heather E. Cunningham, Douglas B. Giorgis*, Stuart Green, Anne Shapland Kearns, Ric Sechrest*, Alisha Spielmann, Matilda Szydagis*, Aubrie Therrien, Matthew Trumbull*, and Kristen Vaughan

*Appearing courtesy of Actors' Equity Association.


"I’m off to one of my favorite theater companies: Retro Productions, which unearths plays from the distant past and mounts them in the cozy confines of the Spoon Theatre. I’ll gladly take one of 40 seats and see William Marchant’s 1955 comedy The Desk Set...  Director Tim Errickson’s production is quite accomplished. He understands that what makes The Desk Set wonderful is how much all these women care for each other.  Errickson puts a lot of love in his production...  Matthew Trumbull (Richard Sumner)... Picture what Tony Randall was like in that era, and you’ve got Trumbull exactly right.  Bunny is played by Kristen Vaughan, who bears a striking resemblance to Alison Fraser (and may be just as talented). The way Vaughan says “I love it” when referring to her job leaves no doubt that she’s telling the truth.  I also appreciate Heather E. Cunningham as Peg. Cunningham is a heavy-set woman who delivers a performance with a subtext that says, “I value myself, and I won’t mock myself or my weight by acting ridiculous. I know I’m desirable and worth a great deal.” I’d say “More power to her,” but Cunningham knows she has plenty of power already, and is using it splendidly.  Cunningham is also the producing artistic director of Retro Productions, so I’m twice as grateful to her. Can’t wait to see what goodies she resuscitates next season." - Peter Filichia, theatremania.com


"Retro Productions is currently presenting a revival of [The Desk Set] by William Marchant, and the production is great fun indeed...  Director Tim Errickson's work shines, especially in terms of pacing, and the overall physical production ranks with indie theater's very best: there's a detailed set by Rebecca Cunningham that evokes the '50s-era corporate office expertly, even within the snug quarters of the Spoon Theater; Viviane Galloway's costumes are attractive and completely appropriate to time and place; lighting and sound, by Justin Sturges and Jeanne Travis respectively, are seamless and invaluable; and Sturges's computer for Act III is a delightful contraption that perfectly depicts what a light-hearted yet sober designer would have imagined a futuristic high-tech computer would look and behave like 50-some years ago...  The ensemble of ten is anchored by the excellent Kristen Vaughan as Bunny, who gets the sophistication and occasional underlying sadness of the heroine just right: she's completely convincing as a brilliant gal with a heart of gold who somehow so far has failed to reel in her man. Offering terrific support are Heather E. Cunningham, Aubrie Therrien, and Alisha Speilmann as Bunny's staff—like Vaughan, they get the period and style of the play and never comment on it. (And Cunningham is especially good with the dry, throwaway lines that she's called upon to deliver as the senior staffer, Peg Costello.)  The Desk Set is extremely well produced by Retro Productions, and marks another feather in the cap of this young but already acclaimed troupe." - Martin Denton, nytheatre.com"Marchant tells his tale briskly, with a sharp ear for witty detail. In an age when Google rules, all this might seem quaint, but there's something refreshing in being reminded of a time when persons were actual, not virtual, fonts of knowledge...  The Desk Set is an ambitious undertaking... [Vaughan's] Bunny is the shining grace of this production. Never pushing her comedy, Vaughan's subtle characterization is believably charming and, when asked for, suitably poignant... Oh, and I'd bet on these smart girls against Wikipedia anytime." - Karl Levett, Backstage.com

"Like all the plays put on by Retro Productions, The Desk Set (written by William Marchant and directed by Tim Errickson) has solid roots in the past...  Kristen Vaughan’s Bunny is full of intelligence and fire.  She masters the difficult dialogue with style and ease, completely convincing you that she loves this job and would give her life for it.  Heather Cunningham does a number on the character of Peg – expanding her from a one-note good time gal into someone who runs deeper and truer.  Peg is brassy and bold, but Cunningham will every so slightly allow her vulnerability to peek through, and it’s at that moment when you fall in love with her.  Alisha Spielmann’s Ruthie is the new girl around the office, whose excitement about learning all there is to being a great researcher like Bunny is doused by the possibility of being downsized by Sumner’s machine.  Spielmann gives Ruthie that innocence we all had at our first job, that “I’ll do anything” spirit, that youthful earnestness that we all may remember, and she does so without making Ruthie a pushover or childish.   Matthew Trumbull as Mr. Sumner epitmizes the techy who comes into a new office wanting to “help everyone” but really wanting to “change everything” and naively believes there are not going to be any hard feelings as he does so.  Bunny’s long time non-fiance Abe Cuttler (Ric Sechrest) does a great job at portraying the typical 50’s old boys network – he’s part of that middle manager club who slowly makes his way up the ladder by trying to create Progress without actually progressing the company forward at all...  The set (designed by Jack and Rebecca Cunningham) is amazing, right down to the letter (or, should I say, the letter opener).  With props designed by Heather Cunningham and Casandera M. J. Lollar the ambiance is almost like another character of the play.  The texture of the wood and the old fashioned (though cutting edge at the time) office implements  take us back to the energetic time when  the future was screaming toward us like a Boeing 707...  We can take away a lot from this time capsule of a play as we all learn to adapt to the changes in the world around us...  So come and see what you can learn about your future by taking a vivid and exciting glimpse at the past  and The Desk Set." - Karen Tortora-Lee, thehappiestmedium.com

"When I went to see The Desk Set, there were some things I was expecting... I was expecting incredible sets, with details down to the drawer pulls. I was expecting articulated costumes, with period perfection down to the jewelry. And I was expecting powerful performances in drenched period styles...  Everything I had seen from Retro in the past prepared me for the possible psychological damage I would encounter... Incredibly, instead, I just laughed all the way through it. They have proven they can handle turgid, taught drama, with stakes as high as murder at the hands of a madman and the killing of a child by an angry God, so for them to pull back and use their incredible skills to create a light office comedy – it’s actually an incredibly brave move...  Matthew Trumbull is marvelous, and Kristen Vaughan is as good as I’ve ever seen her. I marvel at how lucky we are to have actors of this much aptitude and art gracing our humble stages, I feel like both Matthew and Kristen ought to have, long ago, given up our ghettos for more celebrated houses. It’s actually a real testimony to Tim Errickson as a director that so many of the actors are so pitch perfect in this production. Ric Sechrest was phenomenal. As a dutiful mamma’s boy, and a suitor too innocent to see his opportunities, Ric’s open face and purity was perfect. Had the actor played this role with any darkness, he would have come across as taking advantage, as almost abusive. The entire ensemble dovetailed into the production effortlessly, but the most astonishing transformation was done by Heather Cunningham...  I’ve been following Heather’s work over the last few years, and had you told me, before I saw the show, what her role was, I wouldn’t have believed you. Heather has played the innocent and the ravaged, and has always plumbed the depths of her own shock and misery in such a way that my heart was just shattering... A woman, alone at a table, eating a donut… you wouldn’t think it could move me to tears, but it did...  So, suddenly, she’s the femme fatale? ...and yet she knocks it out of the park.  Tim also wrestles constant action and motion out of what is actually a very, very small playing space. One gets the sense of a constant storm of questions and demands are flying into this giant company, and our characters are pushing the information from one side of the stage to the other, like waves crashing. There’s never a lull, never a pause, and thanks to the wonderful direction, the staging is matched perfectly with the performances to create that pace... This is the perfect introduction to one of the smartest and most articulate production companies making theater at the Off-Off level. More than that, if you really want smart established scripts, and you’re accustomed to really high production values, then you NEED to start seeing Retro’s shows." - Sean Williams, seanrants.com

NOMINATED FOR SIX NEW YORK INNOVATIVE THEATRE AWARDS:  Outstanding Production of a Play, Outstanding Set Design, Outstanding Costume Design, Outstanding Sound Design, Outstanding Innovative Design (properties) and  Outstanding Actress in a Lead Role - Kristen Vaughan