by Joseph Keenan
Short Review: It was absolutely perfect.
Long Review: The setting is a hotel room in Gainesville, Florida, a college town in northern Florida. The playwright/director, Jim Solanick, has completed three acts of a four act play and is discussing his ideas for the final act with his set director, costume designer, sound engineer, and lighting director, Jim Wilson. The following dialogue took place in finalizing the fourth and final act of the play that is set to open and perform before a world stage in Paris onAugust 18th, 2003. We eavesdropped on their conversation and for identification we'll call them Solanick and Wilson, since they both have the same first name.
Solanick: "Okay, I've written the first three acts: Deux Journey, Tres Kilometer, and Quatro Pain. I'm pleased with how that's going. Now for the fourth and final act, I want to do something that will bring the house down"
Wilson: "What? You weren't happy with the glorious lighting and set design I did for the first three acts? How could I improve on that? Conditions were perfect. The cast was dressed in some of the most outlandish and garish costumes I could find. We got steeds from the best stables such as Light of Speed, the Italian beauties from Bianchi, custom bred beauties from Serrotta, etc. I built you a set with the highest eleveation in Florida and most of the equipment performed flawlessly."
Solanick: "Those were good Wilson, but we're really going to do something special for this one"
Wilson: "Okay boss. Let me hear it"
Solanick: "For this final act your set work and lighting is going to reach new heights. For starters we have the cast launch their attack on the objective at 2:00 in the morning. Here's how I want the few hours before morning to look. You're going to have this brilliant clear sky and thousands of stars. And let's have a three-quarter full moon hanging up there. Throw in a couple of shooting stars for effect."
Wilson: "I'll even make one of the shooting stars go across almost the whole sky. Better than a can-can dance."
Solanick: "Nice touch. Now for the sunrise, remember we're in Gainesville Florida. Home of the University of Florida whose colors are blue and orange. Now get this. You create one of the most deep blue skies you've ever imagined. Dot it with a number of white clouds. Here's the coup de grace: Just as the sun starts to rise, the clouds get this incredible Florida orange tint to them. Voila (that's French by the way for Voila) you've painted the opening scene with the blue and orange color of the University of Florida"
Wilson: "Nice entrée boss."
Solanick: "For the set, we're going to surprise everyone. You let everyone know a cold front came through and cleared out the air so that everything looks like a Kodak moment: Bright green farmland, tan colored moss in the Cypress trees, sparkling lakes and rivers. Got it?"
Wilson: "Check boss. Hey what about that Joe Recumbo character who you created in Act I who always forgets something and finishes last in the first three acts?"
Solanick: "Not sure, but for starters like in the other three acts, we open with him hanging on to the group for about 8 miles, and you give us a perspective from his eyes and you have the blinking red light effect slowly fade away so the audience knows he's all alone again."
Wilson: "Deja Vu all over again."
Solanick: "This final act will get played out over 40 hours so the set design has to take both day and night into consideration. Now after that brilliant sunrise you've created, make sure the audience can tell that the rest of the day was a perfect day for the event we're trying to depict. Change the backdrops every now and then so the audience can tell that the cast is launching their campaign over rolling hills and farmland. We don't want a lot of distractions, so keep those mechanical moving vehicles to a bare minimum. Create the set so that if you're looking through say, Joe Recumbo's eyes, all he can see down the road is nothing but a clear path."
Wilson: "So that's the first half of the last act? There is no rain? No traffic to speak of? You've written in beautiful landscapes? Smooth roads? Sheesh, sounds kind of boring to me."
Solanick: "As for Joe Recumbo, we have him trailing the main cast. We'll have various meeting points through out the act. What will happen is Recumbo will meet up with a small group at each of the rest stops during the day, but they're leaving as he's pulling in. Remember his double agent name: Rouge Lantern. Well he still is at this point".
Wilson: "Trés chic, boss"
Solanick: "Remember in this final act the participants are to capture the objective in 40 hours or less, which is really grueling for the characters, so I've built in an area to rest two-thirds of the way through the campaign. Here's where we have some fun with Recumbo. He shows up along with everyone else, but decides on a tactical move: Unlike most everyone else, he's not going to sleep. Remember when he was told after Act II that he'd have to get faster to compete? Well he answered that he could get lighter, he definitely was going to get older, but he'd been working on faster forever and was still slow."
Wilson: "Yeah, I've heard of that strategy. You're putting it to good use. So maybe he won't meet his Waterloo."
Solanick: "He is forgetful. If you recall the character description he's from land to the far north and is aware of cold conditions and how to dress for them. What we do is have a flash back where Recumbo goes over and over his checklist and this time he has everything. Well sort of. He didn't count on northern Florida also being cold at night, so all he carries on his trusty steed to do battle is one piece of light outerwear."
Solanick: "For this next scene make the night fairly dark and let the audience know that it's getting colder and colder. I'll have Recumbo visually shivering for effect. At this point he's the only character heading out to do battle near midnight. I'll have a few other riders, oh about four, also decide to attack the target during the night. They'll pass him and inter mingle with him during the first half of the night scene."
Wilson: "Special prop requests?"
Solanick: "I've got this one scene where Recumbo pulls into a spot where the other four riders are dining. This is after riding about 3 to 4 hours in the cold. You can tell he's really cold and doesn't want to leave the warmth of the building. I'll write into the scene that the audience sees this light bulb go off in his head as he's looking around the store. He spies a piece of cardboard. INSULATION his mind screams. Penny flyers: more INSULATION his body cries out. For warmth earlier he put on not one, but two garbage bags. Now he smiles, pulls off the garbage bags, opens his shirt and windbreaker and wraps his chest in newspapers, putting the cardboard in front of them. He again dons the two garbage bags."
Wilson" "Not exactly a walking billboard for French fashion, eh?"
Solanick: "For this scene we're approaching the end of night. Recumbo and the other four riders have gone about 28 to 29 hours with no sleep. You set the scene with a long stretch of road. We have Recumbo weaving trying to keep a straight line. He's getting really tired. Twice he nods off and his steed stumbles jarring him awake. As he's moving along the set we have him turn a corner and before him is a 20 foot high sculpture about as wide as a movie screen. He's watching this sculpture in awe, as gargoyles, gremlins and death masks appear to be moving ever so slowly in the sculpture. He's wondering how the artist created this moving effect, when a booming voice is heard off stage: "This is your other Self. So listen Self. You're really looking at Spanish moss swaying in the wind under streetlights. Now you know what a hallucination is!!!" I want you to build a store into the set where he meets up with a couple of the other riders who tell him it's a great place to get some sleep. He asks the proprietor to wake him up in 45 minutes. After he wakes up you've transformed the set from night time to a pale dawn morning with a rose colored sky. We create a daytime scene that's as beautiful as the opening morning. Fill the set with more eye pleasing vistas, smooth roads, and near perfect conditions. Recumbo comes down the final hill and his Lantern Rouge falls off and rolls into a gutter. As he enters the final part of the journey, you have a scoreboard in the background flashing Visitors "0" Home Team "32:34" Sounds like a good ending to me."
Wilson: "Kind of like that perfect soufflé I made the other morning. I know you're retiring after writing this last act boss, and it's perfect. The cast and audience couldn't have dreamed of a better finale. You done good."
Solanick: "Thanks Wilson. Think you can do all of that?"
Wilson: "No problem. Piece of quiche."