At the start of the evening, the aerial tailspin flashing in vintage black-and-white footage on the bare walls of Walt Spangler’s admirably spare, epic-scale set is a visual cue for the emotional one that colors all of the play’s ensuing anguish.
Kahn emphasizes the retro feel by punctuating scenes with black-and-white movies, portraying a farm, typewriters, planes shot down from the sky. Projected onto the set’s vast white walls, in front of a deliberately sparse set, the scenes create an effect that is moody and evocative but that also consistently puts the action in its historical context.
Aaron Rhyne paints it with pale hues for quieter scenes, with a flaming, plummeting fighter plane in the play’s opening instant, and with land- and streetscapes for various mood-setting transitions.
Washington City Paper
Set designer Walt Spangler has designed a space that easily transitions over time while Projection Designer Aaron Rhyne cleverly uses images that reflect the time and place of the proceedings. It’s heartbreaking to watch the explosion of an airplane while Nina thinks of her dying fiancé.
Kahn’s most intelligent directorial choice is perhaps his use of video projections during the scene changes. The black-and-white images evoke archetypal scenes of American life during the interwar years and gesture toward an intriguing historical and allegorical reading of the play only otherwise hinted at in the production: Nina Leeds as the representation of a disillusioned America in the 1920s searching for meaning and happiness, the various men in her life the contending forces in American culture – science, Puritanism, and big business.
DC Metro Theatre Arts