|James Monaghan, Paul Tate dePoo III and Tracy Dorman|
Twice a season, Asolo Repo provides avid theatergoers the opportunity to hear firsthand from designers how they make their magic happen. And so I found myself front and center when dramaturg James Monaghan chatted with scenic designer Paul Tate dePoo III and costume designer Tracy Dorman about their work on "Murder on the Orient Express." The show is a comedic adaptation by Ken Ludwig of the Agatha Christie mystery. As always, the talk was both fun and educational.
The Asolo's production of "Murder..." uses video to a number of ends, including providing the backstory for some of the characters. Dorman had been slightly apprehensive when she realized just how much video there would be. Her costumes are, after all, designed for the stage rather than the screen.
Having seen the final product, Dorman is a clear convert to the video component. She marveled at how much complexity it adds to the story. "I probably shouldn't say this, but the writing of the show almost doesn't deserve this level of beauty," Dorman opined. It's the perfect segue way to dePoo's scenic design.
With a bit of chagrin, dePoo shared that his original idea for the scenic design was an abstract sense of a train. "If the curtain had risen and the audience just saw a bunch of lines, it would be pretty disappointing," he said with a laugh.
The final design -- more or less -- was the result of an all-nighter he pulled after the design team met with director Peter Amster back in May. While I haven't seen the show yet, word is the set is spectacular -- and about as diametrically opposed to an abstraction as you can imagine. DePoo said he had to apologize to the production team responsible for creating the train cars. They had breathed a sigh of relief when he originally told them no wood detail would be required. Oops! And -- spoiler alert -- the elaborate set is on a turntable that allows both sides of the train car to be visible and creates a sense of motion.
DePoo is in awe of the final product created by Vic Meyrich and his team at the scenic studio. "It's insane what this company has built," he said. "It's ginormous." And let's not forget that the show will soon be in repertory with "The Lifespan of a Fact" and "Into the Breeches," so the set must be moved on and off the stage with great frequency. The logistics are daunting.
The pair were in agreement as to their favorite element of the show -- a scene that takes place on the Observation Deck of the train. In a show jam-packed with action and movement, it's a quiet moment when lights sparkle and a character turns and reveals the low-cut back of the dress shown above. Dorman said, "It's cinematic, but magic. And that's theater. That is why we go to the theater."
"Murder on the Orient Express" runs at Asolo Repertory Theatre through March 8. Click here for more information.