Christopher Kyle's caustic new comedy, Plunge, which opened recently at Off Broadway's Playwrights Horizons, is about a weekend in the country that unravels as the guests' romantic secrets come spilling out. However, the action frequently moves to a room in the Paramount Hotel. In contrast to the spectacular disarray of the characters' lives, it is important that both settings look immaculately sleek and chic.
Rob Odorisio responded to these challenges with a witty pair of designs. The Paramount set is a rendition of one of Manhattan's hippest hotels, with all of its stylistic tics rendered in a comically small space (below). In contrast, the country house (right), is an expansive setting, which takes full advantage of the remarkable depth of the Playwrights Horizons stage.
For the Paramount set, LD Donald Holder says, "we solved a lot of the problems that you typically have with a light-colored set by introducing architectural lighting," such as low-voltage MR-11 downlights in the ceiling. "They created scallops on the walls that masked the shutter cuts and theatrical lighting."
Moving to the country house, Holder had more space to work in, but other challenges as well. The only windows on the set that could have given a clear sky view featured instead a brick wall, which masked a crossover space for the actors. Therefore, says the LD, "the only way to treat time of day was to treat the wall, and changing the quality of light coming through the windows, hinting about how daylight and lack of daylight changes the conditions in the room."
Thus, he says, "the first scene in Act I is late morning, so that has the most clear, sculptural, and least-saturated look. In the second scene, the sunlight got more golden. There were a lot of gold hues in the sidelight that was keyed off of sunlight coming through the window."
Holder's design work was a crucial factor in giving the show the beautiful if slightly empty look needed for this tale of rudderless lives. "Ron [Lagomarsino, the director] wanted a realistic world," the LD says. "I tried to track the play emotionally and find ways to make the time of day work on an emotional level, so that as the emotional level of the scene changed, the light did as well."
Holder's light plot consisted largely of ETC Source Fours; the show was run on an ETC Obsession 600 board. Lighting equipment for the production was provided by BASH Theatrical Lighting.
Plunge ran at Playwrights Horizons through mid-October.