Leisure, Labor, Lust @ The Tank

"There I was, going about my business, then a sewing thread lights up a room."

Leisure, Labor, Lust

Presented by The Tank
Written & Directed by Sara Farrington

April 8, 2018

Lighting is never given enough credit. Whether it's in your living room or in Times Square, the best lighting is, by definition, barely noticeable. Its purpose is to bring ambiance and character, not to be the character itself. Lighting is a tool, which is unfortunate, because other than Doctor Who's sonic screwdriver, the tools never get much attention.

Kenneth Posner, notable lighting designer and Tony Award winner, describes light as "a device to paint and sculpt with." I like this sentiment. It elevates lighting to its proper place alongside Michelangelo and da Vinci, not simply as complements to their work, but as a work in itself.

I encourage you to start paying attention to theater lighting, to notice when warmth, coolness, color, screens, and spotlights. A talented lighting designer can influence your interpretation and enjoyment of a performance almost as much as the director themselves.

Take, for example, Leisure, Labor, Lust, playing this month at The Tank. This charming play takes on themes of love, loss, fame, pride, and shame in turn-of-the century America (the last century, not this one, though many of the themes of immigration, class, and adultery could still stand).

I had the unfortunate benefit of watching this play with a close friend from England, which was unfair to the actors trying valiantly to interlope between mid-Atlantic, Irish, working class, and British accents. The difference between my friend's beautifully natural London voice and the actors' courageous attempts detracted from my enjoyment of the play overall, but still - kudos for trying. Perhaps dial it back a tad to avoid the fine line between believable and comical.

That said, the star of this show was truly the lighting. Written as a series of flashbacks, the most convincing way to transport the audience instantly to different times and settings came from a series of cues that moved you from sitting room to party, dining room to butler's pantry. Synced with the sound of rain or distant party-goers, these cues aligned perfectly with the actors gestures and demeanor to set the scene, sometimes only for seconds.

My compliments to Brian Aldous for the excellent lighting execution, and Sam Schloegel for the sound design. This play could use some work to tighten up its somewhat rambling plot (I'd suggest removing or significantly shortening Act 2), and the motivations of each character could be fleshed out. But keep the lighting and sound! A few slight changes to the shape of the play married with the impeccable ambiance that already exists could make this a show worth producing many more times.

Image courtesy The Tank NYC website

Written & Directed by Sara Farrington

Gabriella Rhodeen
Stephanie Regina
Christopher Tocco
Kyle Stockburger

Creative Team:
Alex West (Stage Manager)
Brian Aldous (Lights)
Sam Schloegel (Sound)

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