Some designers would be intimidated bringing Anthony Burgess' infamous novella A Clockwork Orange to the stage. After all, Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film adaptation is largely remembered for its striking look, and the stark visuals are permanently embedded in millions of moviegoers' minds. But James Eric didn't think twice about taking the job. "I saw the movie when it came out, and I never looked at it again," Eric said. "Stage is such a different thing than film, and I remember wonderful stuff in the film, but it was a completely different ballgame. My main task was to make this play move."
As if having such a memorable predecessor wasn't enough, Eric also had to face the logistical challenge of portraying a complex tale spanning dozens of locations and featuring nearly 20 actors on a stage only 38 feet wide and 24 feet deep. Unable to go wider or deeper, Eric decided to build up. Like an M.C. Escher drawing, his set seems to go on forever, made up of separate risers that create several levels for the athletic actors to prowl as on a futuristic jungle gym.
Clockwork reunites Eric with director Rick Sparks, who previously collaborated on Greenway Court Theatre's acclaimed They Shoot Horses, Don't They? "I know how Rick works, and I know where everything is and what's available," said Eric. "Basically I was the most practical person to do the set. Even though designing is something I've never really pursued, it just comes naturally to me."
An actor/writer, Eric has no formal background in set design yet has designed several prominent L.A. theatres. He founded the Matrix Theatre, which he designed and served as artistic director for five years. He later designed the Court Theatre and theatres for John Cassavetes and Jon Voight before settling in at the Greenway. "I think I'm through with designing theatres," said Eric. "I'm very happy at Greenway and feel like I've finally found a home."
"Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange" continues at the Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m. Through June 7. $20-24. (323) 655-4402.