Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

2012 Tony Awards: Best Lighting 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 winners will be in orange.

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY


1. PETER AND THE STARCATCHER
Jeff Croiter

2. THE ROAD TO MECCA
Peter Kaczorowski

3. OTHER DESERT CITIES
Kenneth Posner

DEATH OF A SALESMAN
Scott Lehrer 

To be truthful, I saw both The Road to Mecca and Other Desert Cities so long ago that I don’t recall much of their lighting designs (might voters feel the same?). Most memorable is the rather stunning way Peter Kaczorowski’s work on Road to Mecca complemented Michael Yeargan’s colorful hodgepodge of a set: the sun slowly set and reflected off of the cluttered room’s various baubles, creating a kaleidoscopic effect before settling into glowing candlelight. And for Other Desert Cities, Kenneth Posner played off of John Lee Beaty’s set of a ’60s-modern Palm Springs home, creating some nifty effects including the glimmer of a sunset outside and the ripple of reflected water on the ceiling. But for voters looking for drama in their lighting, they’ll surely be torn between the other two nominees.

Five-time Tony Award-winner Brian MacDevitt (The Book of MormonThe Pillowman) is constantly working on The Broadway, and his designs (those I’ve seen anyway — especially Joe Turner’s Come and Gone) are always exceedingly well done and often quite beautiful; I don’t doubt his work on Death of a Salesman is anything less than breathtaking (I didn’t see it). Much of Mike Nichols’s physical production was a loving recreation of the 1949 premiere, incorporating the original sound (Alex North) and scenic designs (Jo Mielziner), and according to everyone’s favorite New York Times critic, MacDevitt’s “lighting feel[s] utterly of a piece with Mielziner and North’s original contributions… It’s a beautiful, lyrical, ghostly vision.” You can’t get much better than that.

On the other hand, Jeff Croiter’s design (he also designed for Newsies) for Peter and the Starcatcher is the showiest and most colorful of the bunch, and he certainly has a knack for the bright and youthfully-inclined (he lit the fantastically fun The Pee-Wee Herman Show last year). Playing perfectly off of Donyale Werle’s simple yet gorgeously textured and toned backdrop of ocean waves and jungle foliage, the choice lighting creates physical dimensionality where oft there isn’t much — thrillingly turbulent during storms and bright and cheeky when splashing mer-men with sunshine. Of all the nominees, only Croiter’s work (ok, so I can’t speak for Death) is integral to the development of the story and its characters, and its imaginative breadth is marvelous.

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