(Scenic & Lighting Design)
This was a large scale production designed
for The New York State Theatre Institute’s 1,000 seat auditorium in
The "Egg" in Albany, New York. They have a tradition of
producing an Agatha Christie work each year, and their preference if
for a set in a realistic style. Since I was limited in the choice of
style of scenery, I worked hard to make this design rich in detail and
Description of the Design:
This is in many ways a traditional box set,
only richly layered. The setting includes a hint of the outside of the
British manor house. The playing space also extends around corners and
down hallways to the rear, making for a very rich degree of depth.
All detail in the architecture was fully
built, and the setting was designed in perspective to further enhance
the feeling of scale and depth. The ceiling in fact, was only 6 feet
The walls were decorated with stained
wallpaper. The props and furniture were all real antiques valued at
$40,000 for this production. The floor was painted with an FEV finish
to simulate polished wood.
Conceptual and Text Considerations:
If Agatha Christie were Shakespeare, this
would be one of her problem plays. One expects meticulous attention to
detail and verisimilitude in the work of a mystery writer, but I
frankly find many lapses in the work of Christie in this regard. You
can see in the portfolio that I have included a timeline of action
that I generated. This was because as lighting designer, I found
Christie’s use of time problematic.
The prime murder for instance occurs in this
central hall at 4:00 pm in the afternoon in the summer; and yet it is
supposed to be pitch black in the room.
There’s also a "secret panel"
that is not secret to anyone, even those new to the space.
In dealing with these inconsistencies in
writing, I worked to achieve as high a degree of detailed realism as I
could within the theatrical milieu.
Important to the text is the way in which
light distributes through the room. The script calls for indirect
lighting on the ceiling. This seems to parallel the murky world of the
action of the characters in the work. In this design I used a theatre
trick to achieve the effect of the indirect lighting on the ceiling.
Instead of coming from within the room, the light I used came through
the translucent ceiling material from above.
Other directional light could come through
the windows and play in a dramatic way on the characters, and the wall
sconces too added dimension to the work.
Overall, the feeling of the room was in
somewhat ironic contrast to the traditions of murder mysteries. This
is not a work of great weight and so I did not want to produce a set
with a heavy feel. This set rather had a feeling of air and lightness.
Comments from the Press:
Hartt, Rick. Poly, The. 10/17/1990 "Walk into the theatre at the Egg and Richard Finkelstein's set is as striking and beautiful as the lobby is unusual. He has played the most creative mind games to give us a larger-than-life view that is the perfect counterpoint."