by Anthony Chase
Design on stage
Directed and choreographed by Michael Walline, Seussical, at Theatre of Youth has set and costumes by the company resident designer, Kenneth Shaw. This is an explosion of the lines and colors from Dr. Seuss’s beloved books, complete with actors dressed to look like an improbable menagerie of fantastical animals, from Ben Puglisi as the iconic Cat in the Hat, to Loraine O’Donnell as a snarky kangaroo whose joey is played by a puppet. Shaw fills the proscenium frame of the Allendale stage with constantly moving stage pictures, mirroring the shifting locals and narratives of the exuberant Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty musical. Todd Proffitt’s lighting expertly emphasizes the dramatic shifts of the plot. As always, at TOY, the sound design is by Chester Popiolkowski.
SIX DANCE LESSONS IN SIX WEEKS
at O’Connell & Company
Directed by Javier Bustillos, simplicity is the key to the set by Lisa Marie Leone, which approximates a Florida condo from kitchen to door with peep hole. The “wardrobe” by Pamela Snyder takes the characters, an older woman taking dance lessons in her home, and her dance instructor, played by Anne Gayley and Gregory Gjurich, through the titular dance lessons from swing, to tango, to waltz, to foxtrot and so forth with always suggesting the dance with appropriate choices. Richard Alfieri’s script makes numerous reference to these dance-themed clothes and great humor is derived from a tango costume described as appropriate for Zorro, or a Viennese Waltzing dress appropriate for…attracting male attention. One scene is folded cleanly into the next (while allowing for costume changes and set adjustments) with the sound design by Peter Palmisano.
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
Michael Lodick’s set for this handsomely conceived production at the New Phoenix Theatre allows for multiple locations in Robert Waterhouse’s episodic adaption of the famed novel about a group of German school chums who enlist in the army during World War I and head for the front. The setting is deceptively invisible, as it provides space, not just for the shifting locales but for projections by Jim Bush that evoke both the horror and sentiment of the era, and puppets by Michele Costa/theatreFiguren that represent rats, a goose, and nightmare specters. Tom Makar’s sound design amplifies the storytelling at every turn. Chris Cavanagh has designed the light.
Ira Levin’s comic thriller begs for an over the top setting. Dyan Burlingame has not disappointed, creating a spooky country home decked out in every manner of lethal weapon and show poster. Light by John Rickus emphasizes the mood. The costumes by Maura Simmonds-Price communicate the period of the 1970s and the characters effectively. I especially enjoyed the clothes and overstated jewelry for Mary McMahon’s depiction of the psychic, but thought that as the wife, Lisa Vitrano was dressed (and coiffed) more like a college girl from the period than like a wealthy Connecticut socialite married to a prominent playwright. Trousers and outerwear by the gentlemen will evoke long forgotten memories of a self-consciously stylish decade. Thanks to these design elements, the show does take us back to 1978.
THE DROWSY CHAPERONE
MusicalFare takes great pride in their consistently attractive settings. For this homage to musical theater, no matter how hokey its incarnation, Chris Schenk has devised a modest apartment with dozens of delightful hidden tricks that allow the narrator’s imagination to come to life. Costumes by Kari Drozd and wigs and make-up by Susan Drozd echo the sense of mirth and invention. Chris Cavanagh’s cheerful lighting cheerfully maintains the mood.
THE LIARcomedy by Pierre Corneille, adapted by David Ives
A theater in the round presents its own list of challenges, as anything on stage—including an actor—can block someone’s view. The Irish Classical Theatre Company production directed by Fortunato Pezzimenti, playfully meets this challenge with a set by David Dwyer that actually requires its own choreography by Christy Schupp as it is reassembled to create new locations. Sound and original music by Tom Makar valiantly strive to maintain levity and momentum, but lavish costumes by Ann Emo for this neo-classical French comedy create iconic stock characters that have us giggling before a word is spoken. Susan Drozd did make-up and hair for this visually arresting production.
LULUtragedy by Frank Wedekind
Sometimes visual spectacle entirely overtakes the drama at Torn Space, but on this occasion we are treated to a perfect melding of design and narrative. This adaptation of Wedekind’s Lulu plays, directed by Megan Callahan takes us into disturbing territory as society degrades and consumes the heroine who tries her best to navigate life’s treacheries. For this occasion, brilliant set designer Kristina Siegel, schooled at the Berliner Ensemble, has created an environment of levels built of bed mattresses that reminded me of Columbia-student Emma Sulkowicz’s thesis project in which she is carrying a mattress everywhere she goes until her alleged rapist is removed from campus. Design at Torn Space often takes us on such flights of analysis. Siegel previously designed Mud and A Clockwork Orange for Torn Space. Lighting design by Patty Rihn, vivid video design by Brian Milbrand; and haunting sound design by Todd Lesmeister contribute to a perfect amalgam for this modern tragedy. Costume design by Jessica Wegrzyn alternately evokes cultural icons and archetypes.
OVER THE TAVERN
Playwright Tom Dudzick has directed his own play and David King and Dixon Reynolds spare no dose of nostalgia to recreate and East Side Buffalo home in the 1950s, right down to the last button down shirt and box of cornflakes. Light is by Brian Cavanagh and the equally nostalgic sound design, including hilarious catholic school P.A. announcements, is by Shaun Mullins.
SHAKE EM ON DOWN
Scenic Designer David Stock has used a wall of well-worn wooden blinds to evoke a timeless Juke Joint that serves as the Twilight Zone setting for this appealing musical excuse to belt a whole litany of blues songs. Attention has been lavished on the place by Scenic Painter Kim Cruce, and Set Construction by James Harris right down to the Spanish Moss that hangs from realistically textured trees.
This is the final weekend to see the world premiere of Rich Orloff parody of Somerset Maugham’s Rain, directed by Neal Radice, who also did the sets, lights, and sound, with costumes and properties by Joyce Stilson. This is an occasion where camp invention meets realism—or drag meets the tropics. Radice has created a tropical hotel in which a drag queen reigns supreme using stylized realism, and Stilson has populated the joint with instantly recognizable character types.
BOURBON AT THE BORDER
Directed by Willy Judson, the set design by Bob Ball and Lorna Hill features a video representation of the Detroit skyline, seen through a window that changes according to the hour of the day. Contemporary clothes can often go unnoticed, but these effectively communicate character and relationships. The light and sound are by Amilcar C. Hill.
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