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Building the world of any play can be a big challenge. But when the play is a world premiere made up of three short plays that spans three generations and locations, with actors playing multiple roles—and no intermission—the challenges tend to multiply. The designers for David Ives’s The Panties, The Partner and The Profit: Scenes from the Heroic Life of the Middle Class are taking it on, with design elements inspired by pop culture of the 1950s, 1980s and the present day. Before the play’s first rehearsal, Set Designer Alexander Dodge, longtime collaborator of Michael Kahn and David Ives, and Costume Designer Frank Labovitz, Helen Hayes Award Winner, shared their sketches and ideas for the cast and crew.
We meet the Mask family for the first time in working-class Boston in the 1950s. The classic TV series The Honeymooners has been an inspiration for the designers, which can be seen in the sitcom-like kitchen set in shades of black and white with vivid colors reserved for only a few props. Louise and Joseph Mask are dressed up for a parade, but their simple costumes still evoke a 1950s working-class couple, and the audience will get the feeling that they are wearing the nicest items in their closets. The arrival of Jock Revere in a suit with a “leisure-class feel,” marks a departure for the family: while the working-class men are still wearing felt hats, the upper-class Jock has switched to a summer straw boater.
Set in the 1980s on Wall Street, The Partner takes place in the New York office of Joseph and Louise’s son Christian Mask. Alexander Dodge says that set of The Partner is “very much what I remember of the ‘80s: lots of high-gloss finishes and lacquer” with dark wood, nice finishes and a view of Wall Street through the window. Ambitious Sybil wears a Joan Collins-inspired power suit while the younger Milly sports the trends of a puff-sleeved sweater and big hair. Joseph and Louise have aged, but still have a New England feel to their practical clothing, and Louise is still wearing her nicest hat from the 1950s.
In The Profit, we pick up with the Mask family today, living a luxurious life in Malibu. Their minimalist, contemporary home is “very retro but looking ahead,” with marble, travertine and “wacky furniture,” Louise Mask wears an outfit inspired by the Kardashians: a short, sparkly swimsuit cover-up with jeweled high heels. Frank Labovitz says, “The feel is that she’s ready to go down to the water, but it’s actually about her cell phone and being Instagram-ready…there’s nothing practical about that kind of look. It’s about being ready to take your own photo.”
See how these elements come together with David Ives’s new script when The Panties, The Partner and The Profit: Scenes from the Heroic Life of the Middle Class begins at the Lansburgh Theatre on December 4.