Magazine article American Theatre

Editor's Note

Magazine article American Theatre

Editor's Note

Article excerpt

I'VE BEEN HARBORING THE SPECULATION FOR SOME TIME now that we're in a golden age of theatre design. What gives me that idea? What I see on stages, mainly--tiny, design-on-a-dime stages as well as big, well-appointed ones.

There's a moment I distinctly remember, for example, in director Lou Jacob's modestly conceived Off-Broadway production of Sam Shepard's The God of Hell a few years ago when Randy Quaid, playing a good-natured Midwestern galoot, swung open the front door of the shabby farmhouse David Korins had designed to perfection to represent incipient heartland Republicanism, and we in the audience could hear the ambient sound of the windswept prairie rush into the room. For me, that sound cue, at once scrupulously naturalistic and ominously symbolic--it was created, along with original music, by an artist named Lindsay Jones--did as much to drive home Shepard's point about a runaway government's Orwellian threats to American hearths and homes as did the script or the performances.

When I see shows like Nature Theater of Oklahoma's Poetics: a ballet brut--an irresistible, wordless concoction of movement and attitude, which I caught at the Public Theater's Under the Radar festival in early 2008 (it premiered two years prior at Portland, Ore.'s TBA Festival)--it makes me think design has gotten so good that designers don't even need materials anymore to knock the socks off an audience, just an indelibly apt scenographic concept. …

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