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.