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'The Desk Set' is an exercise in contrasts

August 31, 2003|EMILY TOADVINE

In love with the boss? Afraid of losing your job at the office because a computer can do it faster and better?

Dilemmas like these appear in West T. Hill Community Theatre's upcoming production, "The Desk Set," which is set in the 1950s, but still has relevance today.

Bobbie Curd, who is portraying Bunny Watson in the play, says the play is not dated. Part of the plot of the play is a plan by efficiency expert Richard Sumner, who is played by Chuck Taylor, to save the company man-hours by installing mechanical brains.

Curd sees similarities to the play's theme of computers taking over and her own job in Lexington where she is a recruiter for accounting and financial positions.

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"We've had a lot of people coming to us over the last few years who have been replaced by computer programs," she says.

On the flip side, computer errors may create more jobs.

"Those same people will come back to us because that computer program has failed, and they need to bring people back in."

The surprise ending of the play figures in to this scenario, Curd says.

"I like what it says about computers - that they're only as good as the people who make them."

As a woman, Curd says she picks up on the second-class role given to women during the play's time frame. The situations that go on in the office would be frowned on today, she says.

"The men all refer to the women in the office by their first name or as girls. Of course, women refer to the men as mister. They refer to them more formally."

Curd says her character is in love with her boss, Abe Cutler, played by James F. Smith.

"I don't think that happens anymore," she says.

Curd has some big shoes to fill with her role, as it is the one that Katharine Hepburn had in the movie version. Curd says she is not that big a fan of Hepburn, who died in June.

"I always considered her to be an over-actor. I guess that was that era."

She does make an exception for Hepburn in this role.

"I like her character because she's real strong. She's had to climb the ladder where she's at, but she has a feminine side."

Normally, Curd would not be one to sit down and watch Hepburn in a movie.

"I've never been into the older movies. That was a challenge, too. A lot of the dialogue is from the '50s."

Regardless of her feelings, Curd may share some of Hepburn's qualities.

"One of my cousins was so excited that I was playing Katharine Hepburn because she said I always reminded her of Katharine Hepburn."

Costuming is one area where Curd will conform to 1950s standards. The clothing was tight-fitting, but Curd is prepared.

"I'm going to be wearing a girdle."

Playing the lead has been somewhat of a challenge for Curd. This is the first time for Curd, whose most recent community theater role was as Helen Keller's mother in "The Miracle Worker." Curd has little time off-stage and had tons of lines to learn

"She talks a lot in this play. I think people are going to get sick of my voice after they see it."

The fact that the play is a comedy also is tricky, Curd says. She has been in a comedy-mystery before, but "The Desk Set" relies more on witty humor.

"It is fast-paced. If you get off on your timing, you can mess the entire scene up."

Being able to rely on her fellow cast members in the play directed by Jennifer Brummett has been one of the best things about the play for Curd.

"It's been a lot of teamwork. We're all humans and we've had a lot of things going on outside of this place. We've had small, medium and large challenges outside of this play."

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