Natasha Pierre  The Great Comet Of 1812 photo by Matt Rosss Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet Of 1812; photo by Matt Rosss

The New York Times: Best Theatre Of 2016

As the year draws to an end, The New York Times has published its round-up, Best Theatre of 2016, by Ben Brantley and Charles Isherwood, in which they list a series of plays that were assertive and in the year of such a divisive election: “really listen—to how we talked about race, sexuality, the demonization of others.” 

So who were the designers of these plays, and what did the press have to say about them? Here are a few of their picks. (Read the full article here.)

For The Gabriels, Richard Nelson’s play set on election night, in which he captured "the elusive, expansive comic sadness we associate with his beloved Chekhov…,” the designer get a nice mention: “This is all the truer because the team of designers here—Susan Hilferty and Jason Ardizzone-West (set), Jennifer Tipton (lighting) and Scott Lehrer and Will Pickens (sound)—have made the Gabriels’ kitchen into what feels like a warm corner of never-ending security. And yet we’re abidingly aware that this house may well be demolished within the year,” says a November 9 review by Brantley

In The Crucible, brought to Broadway by acclaimed Dutch director Ivo van Hove, currently high on the hot director list, “We are made to see what the terrified residents of Salem think they see, in visions formed from a collective, paranoid fever dream. In rendering these effects, Mr. van Hove and his astonishing set and lighting designer, Jan Versweyveld, borrow freely from the imagery of horror movies,” as noted in Brantley’s March 31 review.

Underground Railroad Game, in Brantley’s September 23 review, is called “A lacerating comedy on race… as directed by Taibi Magar, with an exceptionally resourceful design team, the play conjures searing theatrical visuals to match its wayward words, the sort of images that used to send people to Freudian analysts when they cropped up in nightmares.” The design team included production designer Tilly Grimes, scenic designer Steven Dufala, lighting designer Oona Curley, and sound designer Mikaal Sulaiman.

Architect/scenic designer David Rockwell gets a shout out in Isherwood’s October 27 review of the revival of Falsettos: "David Rockwell’s set resembles a child’s building blocks, which are manipulated by the actors. Placed against a shifting Manhattan skyscape, it’s an ingenious illustration of what we are watching: people laboring to arrange a comfortable life for themselves and their loved ones, and continually having to readjust it."

And the Broadway transfer of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet Of 1812, cannot be discussed without mentioning the designs: “The cozy rapport between audience and performers has been painstakingly maintained by Ms. Chavkin and the set designer, Mimi Lien. A fair portion of the audience is seated onstage. The action takes place not just up there but also on a parquet runway that snakes through the orchestra seating, and even in the mezzanine. The walls are draped in red velvet dappled with gilt-framed paintings, giving the impression that we are all guests sharing a sumptuous drawing room. Starburst chandeliers descend and rise. (The lighting, by Bradley King, and the half-period/half-punk costumes, by Paloma Young, are terrific),” as noted in Isherwood’s November 14 review.

Congratulations to all the designers of all these best picks for 2016. Keep up the good work!

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