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Set for a Rough Crossing

Though Bag&Baggage Productions is known for its innovative twists and adaptations on classic scripts, the final show in its fifth season is pushing the limits in another area: set design.

“Rough Crossing,” a high-seas 1920s-style farce takes place on the deck of a trans-Atlantic ocean liner during the first act, then uses the 15-minute intermission to switch to the interior ballroom of the ship in the second.

Set designer and Oregon State University faculty member George Caldwell needed “a pure stroke of genius” to solve that problem—and got it, said director Scott Palmer. “He has created a Transformer-set. Basically, the set is like a piece of origami; it unfolds, moves, stretches and expands.”

What appears to be two stairways and a balcony in the first half of the play will unfold into the walls and curtains of a ballroom in the second act.

With the shape-shifting contraption in place, the stage is set for the hilarity of “Rough Crossing,” which follows the famous playwriting team of Turai and Gal as they head toward New York, under deadline to complete the final act of their latest play. Their young composer and protégé, Adam Adam, is distracted by his fiancée, Natasha Navratilova, as she’s just rekindled a romance with former boyfriend and current co-star Ivor Fish.

The central tension revolves around whether or not Turai and Gal will finish their play amid all the chaos.

The script is playwright Tom Stoppard’s adaptation of “The Play at the Castle” by Ferenc Molnar.

“Stoppard is one of the very best, and very funniest, British writers in generations, and “Rough Crossing” is really a showcase for Stoppard’s wit and sense of humor,” Palmer said.

“Rough Crossing” will also incorporate musical numbers — but it’s not a musical.

“This play is a bit different than a ‘musical,’ because it is titled ‘a play with music’ and only has three songs,” explained Megan Carver, who plays Natasha.

“It certainly is different from anything Bag&Baggage has done before, said Norman Wilson, who plays Gal.

To get into character for the 1920s throwback, “We have been listening to old clips of Noel Coward,” said Norman Wilson, who plays Gal. “That clipped, insouciant delivery gives us a really good model of the style we want.”

Peter Schuyler, who plays Ivor, is studying the speaking styles of Laurence Olivier and other matinee idols.

“We’re in the 1920s, and all of the characters are very wealthy and some ... are out-and-out snobs,” he said.

Costume designer Melissa Heller designed a dress specifically for Carver, to evoke Carver’s upper-class persona. “Think flapper dresses, finger waves and a lot of eye shadow,” Carver said.

Adam Syron, who plays Turai, said he’s donned his own three-piece suit during rehearsals to get a sense of how it feels to be so consistently well-dressed.

“If you ever want to feel like you belong in the upper crust of society, I’d suggest wearing a suit to the 7-11 an hour before rehearsal,” he quipped.



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