Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2012 Tony Awards: Best Scenic Design for a Play

Note: My personal rankings are listed in order from best to worst, with #1 being my favorite, while predictions for the actual winner will be in orange.


Donyale Werle 

John Lee Beatty

Mark Thompson

Daniel Ostling

 Missing: The Mountaintop, David Gallo

Many folks were impressed by with Daniel Ostling’s set for Clybourne Park simply due to its super-quick transformation during intermission: In act one, a 1959 living room in the Chicago ‘burbs is vacated by a white family as the first black family moves into the neighborhood; act two showcases the same space, 50 years later, as a white family plans to move into what has become a largely black community. But when it comes down to it, a change in wallpaper and some graffiti do not a Tony Award winner make, no matter how many stagehands (nine) it takes to create said 15-minute quick-change.

An adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s 1743 comedy, The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, One Man, Two Guvnors boasts a set that perfectly complements the ridiculous hilarity of the action. Mark Thompson’s charming cut-out of a set depicts the  seaside resort town of Brighton in the 1960s, with color-splashed flats that roll on and off the stage nearly as quickly as the silly rolls off the tongues of the super-quick-witted cast. A producer as well as a designer, Mark is his own competition: producing credits include fellow-nominee Peter and the Starcatcher.

For the aesthetes among us, there’s John Lee Beatty’s (also represented this season with his work on The Columnist, Don’t Dress for Dinner, and Venus in Fur) 1960s-modern room set for Other Desert Cities which boasts all the “tasteful” accouterments of the Reaganite family’s Palm Springs home. The sweeping curves of sleek white furniture, stone walls and glass reflect the surface perfection that hides a deeply troubled family. This marks Beatty’s fifth nomination and with no wins yet, he’s definitely well-positioned as a spoiler here.

But for the least realistic and most theatrical of sets, look no further than Donyale Werle’s gorgeously toned — textured greens and tie-dyed waves of deep blue flow throughout — and whimsically structured set that appears as if bursting forth from the wildly creative imaginations of its child-heroes in Peter and the Starcatcher. Nominated last year for her lushly over-the-top hipster-y design for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (she should have won), Werle is a off-beat designer with a flair for the fanciful and an expert knack for eye-popping colors and dreamy textures. Here work here has garnered enough notice to ensure a win come June 10th.


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