Nora Ephron’s play Lucky Guy follows NY tabloid journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Mike McAlary through newsrooms, bars, and the streets of New York City in the '80s and '90s. In fact, there are 28 scenes in Act One and 17 in Act Two that, besides needing to establish location for the audience, also require creating a sense of time since the play covers a 12-year period. The creative team includes lighting designers Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, scenic designer David Rockwell, and projection design by Batwin + Robin. Under the direction of George C. Wolfe, the play’s production elements balance storytelling with technology to take the audience behind the headlines of McAlary’s life.
Projection designer Robin Silvestri, creative director/partner in Batwin + Robin, was pleased to have yet another opportunity to work with Wolfe. “We’ve worked with George on a number of productions over the last 15 years, and it is always great. Between tech and previews, we had five weeks in the theatre. During this time, George did a lot of restaging, some editing, and there were several places where scenes were melded together. George’s changes helped make the story more cohesive. For our part, we were constantly updating and recreating and repositioning material. I think that’s what makes working in theatre exciting; you really see the process; you see the characters develop; you see the story develop; you are part of making that evolution happen.”
For the imagery itself, Silvestri and Wolfe knew they didn’t want the projections to be literal elements. “When Norah wrote the play, she wrote in the script that she wanted it to feel film noir-ish. George and we didn’t translate that idea literally, but we used fragments, shadows, and elements that suggest film noir. Yes, there are lots of blacks and whites, but there are also hints of colors as well throughout the show.”
Finding the content actually required a bit of the old investigative research approach itself for Silvestri’s team. “Research for this production was one of the bigger challenges,” she says. “Adam Casini, my associate designer, and researcher Megan Gargagliano spent a good month in the New York Public Library looking through microfilm of the news articles. Not a lot of this material is available online, so it was good old-fashioned library research, something that none of us has done in a very long time. You really start appreciating what the Internet means now. I think the tremendous amount of actual research for stories and headlines was one of the most complicated things on this show.”