Sunday, April 3, 2011

Another Not-A-Review

Dividing the Estate at the Dallas Theater Center.  I'm beginning to be glad that I'll never invite Horton Foote to a family picnic - no telling what he'd notice.  What a very observant and quietly, wickedly, funny play Dividing the Estate is.  This cast does well by these characters.  Two I particularly enjoyed: the actress who played the sister who wants the money now! and Mathew Gray's only-sane-man-in-the-room.

Of course, it's the set I come to see.  (Kiddin', kiddin'.)  This one, designed by John Arnone, is straightforward.  A row of tall, classical columns, echoed by matching pilasters further upstage with doors and windows between them on the transparent wall, mark a raised entry hall.  Downstage, in thrust, is a dining room platform with a long table and chandelier, thrust still further downstage is the living room.  Upstage of the hall we see a small curved entry court, dangling leaves of weeping willows, and a sky cyc.  Simple, nicely done.

Now, I'm picky, but this is a Tony winning Broadway designer, visiting at SMU, so his design will stand up to a picky question.  Why deliberately flatten the columns?  Detailing made it clear this was a design choice.  Why not make the capitals 3D, since, of course, they were 3D.  Before the show I guessed some metaphor about characters presenting "facades"... but that didn't make sense watching the play.  To point out the artificiality of this as a "set" not a real place?  Puzzling.  Likewise unrealistically-wide painted floor boards - also to underline set-ishness?  I didn't like the spindle-baluster railings each side of the set, but that's a pet peeve of mine.  Hate 'em in real life.  Too widely spaced on-stage versions drive me completely nuts - I'd rather have no railings.

I found a link to Mr. Arnone's webpage.  I found his The Goat set especially interesting, as I've designed that show myself.  I hope I (and my fellow local designers) get a chance to meet this accomplished set designer now that he's in town.

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