The year’s top scenic designs: Derek McLane’s huge set for 33 Variations turned the La Jolla Playhouse stage into not just an archive of musical scores, hanging in rows, but also the mind of Ludwig van Beethoven. Combined with David Lander’s excellent lighting, the set revealed the tempestuous creative process of the master.
Lee Savage turned the Cassius Carter into a boxing ring for In This Corner, exact in every detail. Also at the Old Globe, Alexander Dodge designed the majestic interior of a Victorian mansion, for The Pleasure of His Company, its nine-foot-tall windows overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge (in act 1, York Kennedy’s lights fashioned an amazing sunset, from soft yellow to deep rose, behind the bridge).
The Listener by Liz Duffy Adams takes place in a postapocalyptic future of isolated stragglers and junk heaps. Moxie Theatre lived up to its name by hauling tons of detritus into the Lyceum Space for designer Amy Chini’s audacious set: a mound of hubcaps, wheels, warped metal, rusty slag.
Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company’s Permanent Collection was about an artistic legacy, and David F. Weiner’s set qualified as a work of art: a gallery, with a colorful Cézanne center-stage, flanked by black, see-through screens, behind which stood rooms and entryways (and the catacomb-like suggestion of more behind them). Depending on where Jason Bieber cast his lights, the set would open or narrow like a camera’s shutter.
One last: the renovated Balboa Theatre, which hadn’t hosted a full-dress musical in umpteen years, became the launching site for a nationally touring production of Spring Awakening. The spare, adamant production, and the grand old stage, were a perfect fit.