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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Theater

Debutante to find herself in romantic play


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Presented by the School of Theatre and Dance, “The Philadelphia Story” will introduce a journey of romantic drama as a young debutante finds herself by battling love. The play is opening at 8 p.m. on April 18 at the Wortham Theatre and will continue throughout April 26. | Courtesy of Eric Shea

The School of Theatre and Dance’s upcoming production of “The Philadelphia Story” is about a young debutante trying to find the right man.

“In two hours, we follow her in a misunderstanding with her father, a new crush on a journalist and an argument with her first husband all on the eve and morning of her intended nuptials,” said director Carolyn Boone.

Third-year design graduate student and set designer Matthew Plamp said the piece looks at the difference between the working class and the upper class.

“‘The Philadelphia Story’ has the old don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover theme,” Plamp said.

“The set design for the play is parallel to the progression of the characters in it. This is all possible because of the careful crafting of even the smallest of details, such as the molding of the walls and the shadows casted by the actors, adjusting with the development of the characters.”

The leads for the play include Jessica Riley as Tracy Lord, Patrick Poole as Mike Connor and Benjamin McLaughlin as C.K. Dexter Haven.

“The play is full of lavish, larger-than-life characters, witty one-liners and in true form of the screwball comedies of the ’30s and ’40s,” said Riley, an acting senior. “Also, we all had a lot of fun throughout the process finding impressions of famous movie stars from that era.”

“The Philadelphia Story” accompanies Lord as she goes from being divorced to engaged to becoming fascinated with a reporter.

“One of the characters that guided the set layout was Tracy, as she must fall from grace or fail in her own standards before she can see who she really is,” Plamp said. “With that, the set goes through a transformation from the perspective of the audience.”

Haven, like Lord, goes through multiple role changes throughout the play as he strives to provide his true love’s happiness at the risk of losing his own, the opposite of what can first be assumed from his gruff characteristics.

“I had started to pin him down as a somewhat manipulative ‘playboy’ with a penchant for drink and yacht designing,” said McLaughlin, a theater junior. “Now, I like to think of Dexter as a hopeless romantic.”

McLaughlin said his role relates to UH students because he has a personality and guts that many people wish to have.

“Dexter represents the outgoing, romantic personality in all of us. He wants love, and he fights to preserve it even if it isn’t returned,” McLaughlin said. “Who hasn’t thought about winning back a significant other after a breakup?”

Behind a great production are long rehearsals that involve hard work, focus and good company to keep the energy up. For “The Philadelphia Story” in particular, actors butted heads and surprised each other.

In one scene, McLaughlin missed Poole’s hand with his “butterfingers,” and the ring fell on the floor.

“We both bent down to pick it up, and in doing so, we bumped our heads together, reacted with the same sound and then we both touched where our heads had bumped,” McLaughlin said.

Even Boone got involved in a little fun on set as she open-mindedly applauded the alternate ending her cast jokingly presented.

“The minute Jessica delivered the (last) line, the rest of the cast emerged from behind the set and started singing Fred Astaire’s ‘Cheek to Cheek,’” McLaughlin said. “The whole time, our director pretended to cry since the show had such a beautiful, new ending.”

“The Philadelphia Story” will run from Friday through April 26 at Wortham Theatre. The production starts at 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and April 24 to 26 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday and April 27.

Tickets are $20 for general admission, $15 for faculty, staff and alumni and $10 for students. They can be purchased online or by calling the box office at (713) 743-2929.

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