Thursday, January 1, 2009

Wisey Best Costume: Intimate Exchanges

The nominees for best costume for 2008 were:
Intimate Exchanges at ACT Theatre. Carolyn Keim, costume director.
A Midsummer Night's Dream at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Katherine Roth, costume designer.
The Clay Cart at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Deborah M. Dryden, costume designer.
The Adding Machine at New Century Theatre. Pete Rush, costume designer.

And the winner is…Intimate Exchanges at ACT Theatre, Marcia Dixcy Jory, costume designer.

Intimate Exchanges has four possible story lines (or it did in this production), six characters, and just two actors. This means rapid costume changes – up to 30 of them, as fast as 20 to 30 seconds. How is a costume designer to keep up?

The 24 different costumes were exquisitely detailed down to the buttons and necklaces, hats and handbags, and the curl of a mustache. And the clothes were apparently constructed with Velcro or snaps or scotch tape or something equally conducive to being ripped off and stuck back on several times a show. I have no idea how they managed the makeup – presumably by keeping it simple. Some of the changes had to be made in about the time it would take an actor to exit stage left, walk around and enter stage right, shedding garments and stepping into new ones along the way. Wardrobe master Sally Mellis and dresser Erin Perona kept the controlled chaos invisible to the audience.

Clearly the skill of R. Hamilton Wright and Marianne Owen made the magic happen, effecting a complete transformation into their various silly characters every time. Every magician needs props, and the wigs and mustaches and bows and hats and pearls helped make the illusion that there could have been…there must have been?….more than two people playing all those parts. In a delightful nod to the actors beneath all that frippery, Hamilton and Owen took their curtain calls in their underwear, bathrobes, socks, and wig caps.

As for the other nominations: OSF can always be counted on for fabulous costumes, although as this reviewer has noted elsewhere on this blog, they sometimes make up in lusciousness what they lack in relevance. Two shows this season did an especially fine job with costumes that were integral to the production.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
was over-the-top fabulous, where the fairies were, well, fairies. And I’m guessing all costume designers get into the biz for a crack at the ass’s head.

I wonder if a certain reviewer involved in the nominating process could have been influenced by Miriam Laube’s bare midriff in The Clay Cart. The play was a visual feast and very physical and the gorgeous costumes and jewelry of a huge ensemble cast helped it all be magnificent.

Special mention goes to the inaugural production of New Century Theater Company for The Adding Machine. The costumes (and, indeed, the whole set) were monochromatic and stark without being minimalist, and the makeup was Holloween-scary (white face and black lips – but really, it works), all in keeping with the whole point. And you have to love a scene where the cast trudges single-file across the stage on their way to being born in the best collection of period underwear since a 1920s Sears-Roebuck catalog.

1 comment:

Weisenheimer said...

My sweetie is right; Miriam Laube is nice to look at, and Clay Cart was a feast for the eyes, but Intimate Exchanges was incredible!