On the second day of tech rehearsals for "Golden Boy," this past weekend, I entered Broadway's Belasco Theater through the stage door. The guardian of the entrance, just inside, occupying a small, glassed-in compartment, greeted me. In his booth, a small television was on almost silently, playing a football game. I made my way to the basement, negotiated my way through a corridor flanked with rest rooms and storage closets, and arrived in the public downstairs lobby area. A few racks of 1930s clothing were ensconced there, being fussed over by the production's award-winning costume designer, Catherine Zuber, and her team. Though I was eager to ask Zuber about her handiwork, she was so busy that I continuing motoring my way through the theater, which was restored two years ago but still strikes me as almost unrecognizably refreshed.
Upstairs, I slipped into a rear orchestra seat. Banks of temporary tables, glowing with computers and staffed by sound people and the show's lighting designer, Donald Holder, formed barriers against the possibility of plopping down into a seat closer to the stage, where actors were going through brief sections of the play. They paused regularly so that the lighting team and stage management, under the supervision of director Bartlett Sher, could set cues. In this part of a production's history, a play most resembles a movie or TV shoot, and reminds me why Katharine Hepburn, when once asked about actors who complained about long days, replied: "Yes, the work takes energy and endurance, but it's not generally backbreaking. In a typical twelve-hour day, you stand or sit around for eleven of them."
True enough, but as I watched the actors stand by patiently for technical adjustments, I thought once again about how the Art of Acting is in large measure the Art of Waiting. And waiting, as anyone who's observed the long lines around the New York region this week - for gasoline, for food, for the basics of housing repair - is part of many New Yorker's repertoire right now even more than usual.
After observing the actors for a while, I moved down across an aisle and struck up a conversation with "Golden Boy"'s ace set designer, Michael Yeargan. We stared at the basic-looking furniture of the story's Bonaparte family, and a backdrop of city-tenement windows.
Yeargan said: "The set is pretty gritty and industrial. We went through three or four variations of it before arriving at the one you see here." He went on: "Other versions had more props and furniture, but they seemed to get in the way of the storytelling. The one we're using is abstract and realistic at the same time."
How does this set compare to the one he did six years ago for the LCT production of "Awake and Sing!", also at the Belasco? "'Golden Boy' has more scene changes," Yeargan replied. "We're not just staying in the Bonaparte family home, but we get out into the wider world - into the world of boxing. I think we found a solution that allows us to move quite seamlessly between all these areas."
Audiences will see Yeargan's beautiful work when the curtain goes up on the first preview.
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com.