a theatre, film & pop culture review
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.
With all the love Golden Boy received, it doesn’t seem to extend too much to Michael Yeargan’s “atmospheric sets” (Charles Isherwood’s detailed and insightful analysis). I didn’t see it, but the five sets, including a gritty gym where Joe, the 21-year-old son of Italian immigrants, trains, and an office and apartment set on platforms in front of an severe wall of tenements, seem to aptly situate the 1937 Odets play. But the two-time Tony winner (South Pacific, The Light in the Piazza) will not be adding another golden guy to his shelf this year.
Rarely do I fixate on a set design in a negative way, but Santo Loquasto’s endlessly revolving New York City apartment drove me nuts with its gratuitousness. True, the individual rooms — which period decor changes from 1980 in Act I to 2000 in Act II — are plush in all their Central Park West grandeur. But The Assembled Parties‘s incessant scene changes (thanks, Lynn Meadows) which spin, spin, spin the apartment from room to room as characters exit and enter and ponder and chat are overly indulgent, and the set’s revolving capabilities add little to the play. This is Loquasto’s seventeenth (!) nomination (he’s won thrice, lastly for Grand Hotel in 1990), but despite a gushing response from critics, it’s unlikely he’ll win his fourth here.
David Rockwell, also nominated this year for his handsome shoe-factory set for Kinky Boots, created a super-efficient set for Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy that moves us from the newsroom to bars to a hospital to a diner, etc. Mixing low and high tech — mirroring the city’s frenetic energy, actors move portable set pieces and Batwin + Robin expert projections flash ever-changing headlines across the stage — Rockwell crafted a collage of pre-Giuliani New York with all of its grit, graffiti and scandal. It perfectly encapsulated columnist Mike McAlary’s 1980s New York, but it isn’t likely to win.
On the other side of the revolve, The Nance‘s turntable smartly spins between a burlesque theater and its backstage area — in between stops at a Hell’s Kitchen apartment, a discrete diner and a courtroom — to cleverly reflect both the onstage and offstage lives of the title character. John Lee Beatty has designed what seems like a million shows (this season alone: Orphans, The Big Knife, An Enemy of the People), but has only a single Tony to his name (Talley’s Folly, 1980). For sheer breadth of period and theatrical detail — beautifully painted backdrops evoke NYC’s vaudeville scene, a colorful collage of landmarks and 1930s adverts hangs over certain sets — Beatty will garner a second, much deserved, Tony.