In mythology, the sirens were sea nymphs who lured seamen to their death with their haunting singing. In the Darrah Cloud play The Sirens, the title is perhaps ironic at best. Dealing mainly with spousal abuse, the play portrays a group of women from different socioeconomic backgrounds who, expecting the security of marriage and a relationship, are lured instead into a world of violence and death.
The play was performed in February at INTAR on New York City's Theater Row along 42nd Street. To designers, Theatre Row means one thing: high-ceilinged (as in very high), narrow (read very narrow) theatres. If that weren't enough, the play has 19 characters. Even with some of the actors doubling and tripling up on roles, that meant 14 actors wandering around a relatively small playing area. On top of that, the play calls for multiple locales ranging from various home interiors to a park to a store to an army camp to a jail cell.
For set designer Klara Zieglerova and LD Matt McCarthy, these factors could have presented great difficulty. But the two worked together to create a practical design. They took a minimalistic approach that allowed the audience to experience mood and atmosphere, rather than a you-are-now-in-a-living-room feeling. Zieglerova ingeniously designed a split-level wooden structure with a staircase leading from the stage level to the upper level (pictured).
Another reason Zieglerova, along with director Mark Wade, wanted to keep the set abstract was because the play itself, despite its subject matter, is not wholly realistic, with a shift in Act II to a ghostly theme. A scene played underneath evoked a trapped, claustrophobic feel; indeed, dubbed "The Cage" by the design team, it was used for many of the jail scenes. And by play's end the stairs also become a literal stairway to heaven. The stairs (treads with no risers) and upper deck (which had to support a piano) were braced with steel so that the set could remain, as Zieglerova notes, "as open as possible."
For his part, McCarthy eerily illuminated the almost skeletal structure with blue light (Rosco 68 Booster Blue). Against the blackness behind and above the set, the effect was, McCarthy says, "to make the set pop out." He devoted one circuit of four 6" fresnels to create the ghostly effect.
Zieglerova, McCarthy, and Wade also discussed creating a look that might suggest a pier along the water (tying the design into the title) which is yet another reason the LD went with blue light. McCarthy also experimented with creating shafts of light which broke against what he calls the "big sculptural set." For McCarthy it became about "angle and composition," rather than oversaturated color. Other than the blue light, he used only a little lavender (Rosco 57); the rest was no color.
Overall, McCarthy used around 55 Altman fixtures; some, with the ETC Vision control console, he rented from Big Apple Lights. Zieglerova cites the contribution of technical director Brian P. Griffin, who built the set. Costumes were by Mary Nemecek Peterson.