Seen And Heard

Seen, Heard, and Honored at Various Awards Shows Around Town: The 2007-2008 season ended, and so it was off to the races to tabulate the best of the season. Design-wise, the Off Broadway Obies lauded the set (Takeshi Kata) and lighting (Keith Parham) of Adding Machine, and the set (Peter Ksander) of Untitled Mars (Editor’s Note: the title may change). The scenic design of The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island, a collaboration of Ben Katchor (drawings), Jim Findlay and Jeff Sugg (set and projection design), and Russell H. Champa (lighting), was also honored, as were the sustained excellence of set and costume designer David Zinn and costumer Jane Greenwood, a perennial Tony bridesmaid.

Findlay and Sugg picked up a scenic design award for their work at the Lucille Lortel Awards, as did Parham for his. Winning for costumes were Die Mommie Die’s Michael Bottari and Ronald Case, and Jessica Jahn. Jorge Cousineau won for his sound design of Opus. The Outer Critics circle, comprised of journalists outside the New York area, tapped the set design (Timothy Bird and David Farley) and lighting (Ken Billington) of Sunday in the Park with George, and Katrina Lindsay’s period costumes for Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

My own organization, the Drama Desk, presented its awards last Sunday, in a stripped-down, old-school production. Design “Deskies,” as they call them, went to Scott Pask for his Les Liaisons Dangereuses set, and Lindsay for her costumes; Michael Yeargan and Scott Lehrer for their exquisite South Pacific set and sound design; and Kevin Adams for his delightful scene-setting illumination of The 39 Steps. The first-ever award for projection and video design went to Timothy Bird and the Knifedge Creative Network for their revolutionary reorientation of Sunday in the Park with George. I am pleased to have been of the nominating committee that initiated this new honor.

Seen Off Broadway: For all I know there are four or five more awards shows tonight, but scanning the horizon all seems quiet till Tony time. As quiet as the audience at the Atlantic Theatre Company’s Port Authority, which started dropping off not too far into the performance. As a theatre writer, I see all kinds of shows, without prejudice. But, cards on the table, I find monologue-based shows (as opposed to solo performances) a bore. I thought playwright Conor McPherson, a practitioner of the form, had gone past this phase with Shining City and The Seafarer, and was disappointed to see him return to it. Turns out he had; this is an earlier work, from 2001.

It differs from most of his prior pieces in this vein in that there is no supernatural element, but there is a Hitchockian “MacGuffin” to link the pieces and give it what thrust it has. There are three characters: A teenager, Kevin (played by Spring Awakening Tony Award winner John Gallagher, Jr.) who is tentatively making his way in the world; middle-aged Dermot (Brian d’Arcy James), who has job troubles and marital regrets; and a pensioner, Joe (Jim Norton), who receives a mysterious package. The men, who are onstage together but do not speak to one another, are themselves linked. The stories are occasionally humorous and the actors, plaintively dressed by costume designer Jenny Mannis, do what they can to enliven the material—the director, Henry Wishcamper, is careful to move them about the stage—but it makes for a slender program.

The other design contributions are interesting. Takeshi Kata’s set element is the high-backed bench, on which the characters sit. Looked at another way, minus the overhead fluorescent lights denoting a public transit center, it could be a church pew as they take their turns confessing to us. Matthew Richards’ lighting subtly changes locales as the stories do—a sea green enters the tableau, for example, as we head toward the water. And Bart Fasbender has provided a hard-to-discern but always-present soundscape of locations as a kind of underscore. [PRG provided the lighting, and Tom Carroll Scenery and Sean McCardle the scenery.]–Robert Cashill

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