Act One

Written & directed by James Lapine

based on the autobiography by Moss Hart

Vivian Beaumont Theatre

Lincoln Center Theater

Costumes by Jane Greenwood, Lighting by Ken Billington, Sound by Dan Moses Schreier, Music by Louis Rosen


2014 Tony Award for best scenic design of a Play

Outer Critic's Circle Award Nomination

The set: Matthew Schechter, Santino Fontana, Deborah Offner, Mimi Lieber, and Chuck Cooper.

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Moss Hart's tenement: Mimi Lieber, Charlotte Maier, Bob Stillman, Andrea Martin, and Matthew Schechter.

George Kaufman's house: Santino Fontana, Andrea Martin, and Tony Shalhoub.

Augustus Pitou's office: Santino Fontana and Will LeBow.

The ugliest green set in the world: Matthew Saldivar, Tony Shalhoub, Greg McFadden, Wendy Rich Stetson, Jonathan Spivey, Bill Army, Deborah Offner, and Lance Roberts.

The Emperor Jones: Chuck Cooper and Santino Fontana.

Moss Hart's tenement: Matthew Schechter, Santino Fontana, Deborah Offner, and Mimi Lieber.

Times Square: Tony Shalhoub.

Sam Harris' office: Santino Fontana, Tony Shalhoub, and Bob Stillman.

Brighton Beach boardwalk: Santino Fontana, Matthew Saldivar, and Charlotte Maier.

Articles about the set for Act One:

Video from Live at Lincoln Center

Time lapse of the set being constructed

Video Interview

Written Interviews

Lecture about the process of designing Act One

"It all unfolds on a miraculous spinning set by Beowulf Boritt, a physical manifestation of Hart’s euphoric nostalgia—not to mention Lapine’s, and, inevitably, our own." ~The New Yorker

" And there’s an elaborate, revolving cityscape of a set, designed by Beowulf Boritt, which spins between the worlds of rags and riches." ~ Ben Brantley, New York Times

"–Beowulf Boritt's ingenious set for Act One is a multi-story marvel, a revolving warren that disgorges countless different locations, including a Bronx tenement, a swanky Manhattan apartment, a furrier's warehouse, busy theater district offices, train compartments, rehearsal rooms, and of course, stage after stage." ~David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

"The bold, complex set by Beowulf Boritt spins and spins. So in its very fiber and execution, it’s a celebration of the theater itself... Boritt’s revolving three-story set spins like a globe that contains apartments, offices, bars and a large theater stage. It has staircases, tenements, grand ballrooms and Broadway marquees. It defies logic. It’s like a M.C. Escher painting come to life." ~Mark Kennedy, Associate Press

"Act One" is played out on a triple-decker revolving stage designed by Beowulf Boritt that catapults the 22 members of the cast from the Hart family's tenement apartment to Mr. Kaufman's Manhattan townhouse with cinematic speed. " ~Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal

“Act One” (which also sported the set of the year, a triple-decker by Beowulf Boritt)" ~Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal "Best of 2014"

"Beowulf Boritt’s massive, tri-level rotating set is a wonder to behold, twirling us from cold-water tenement to sumptuous hotel suite in a twinkling. Like the plays of Act One’s time, the set covers every class level, from janitor to CEO." ~David Cote, Time Out

" Beowulf Boritt's magnificent three-story revolving set." ~David Finkle, Huffington Post

" Set designer Beowulf Boritt puts the physical worlds of “Act One”–the Hart family’s tenement flat; the Kaufmans’ Manhattan townhouse; the theaters in which “Once in a Lifetime” finds its legs–on a huge turntable that seems to spin all night. .. by evening’s end you’re happy to have invested the time in this rewarding Broadway merry-go-round." ~Peter Marks, Washington Post

" Beowulf Boritt's wonder of a set, a revolving multilevel labyrinth of rooms, staircases, and curtains that seems to stretch to the sky." ~Melissa Rose Bernardo, Entertainment Weekly

" Beowulf Boritt's splendid, cunning turntable set, which spins us around locations from Hart's hardscrabble roots to his high life like an enormous carousel." ~Linda Winer, Newsday

" Beowulf Boritt’s stunning circular set, built on a revolving turntable. With each scene, Boritt’s set rotates anew, revealing more and more levels and layers and detail than we’d seen before." ~Dave Quinn, News 4 NY

"The first goosebump moment in -- and by no means the last -- comes just before intermission. The stunned young man stumbles out of Harris' office and into Times Square. As he does, all the familiar electric signs from the Broadway theatres fly in, a harbinger of the glittering future he can't quite yet believe belongs to him. It's a simple, stunning gesture, and it is exactly the kind of moment we expect from a dramatized version of Act One.It all unfolds on Beowulf Boritt's stunning tri-level turntable set, which whirls by, revealing a series of tenements, townhouses, hotel rooms, and theatre interiors. It is an astonishingly detailed creation that, in its constant movement, evokes the headlong nature of Moss' great theatrical adventure." ~David Barbour, Lighting & Sound America

" Beowulf Boritt's set is in constant motion, taking us from the cramped Bronx tenement where a young Moss lived with his immigrant family to Kaufman's lavish Manhattan townhouse and various other spaces." ~Elysa Gardner, USA Today

"Beowulf Boritt's splendid, cunning turntable set, which spins us around locations from Hart's hardscrabble roots to his high life like an enormous carousel." ~Linda Winer, Newsday

"The revolving set by Beowulf Boritt can only be described as thrilling, serving as a constant source of energy." ~Dylan Jarrett, Washington Square News

" On a giant turntable set, designed by Beowulf Boritt (no doubt planned with Lapine as a homage to Hart's signature method of staging such classics as "My Fair Lady" and "Camelot"), the story whirls about in a rapid succession of scenes." ~Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times

" there's a constantly revolving set of three tiers that features more than a dozen locales ranging from rooftops to stoops to alleys to theaters to offices to restaurants to speakeasies. Designed by Beowulf Boritt, this cityscape makes the original set for “Sweeney Todd” at the old Uris Theater look like a kids’ jungle gym." ~Robert Hofler, The Wrap

“The latest “Live From Lincoln Center”, James Lapine’s stage version of “Act One,” Moss Hart’s 1959 autobiography, dates from 2014, when the show ran in the Vivian Beaumont Theater. I reviewed it live and had no reservations of any kind: It was one of the most satisfying shows I saw that year, on Broadway or anywhere else. I didn’t see the 2015 PBS version, though, perhaps because I was skeptical about how Beowulf Boritt’s triple-decker turntable set would look on TV. If so, my worries proved to be unfounded. “Act One” all but explodes off the small screen, confirming my warmest memories of how well it played in the theater. By all rights the results should have been top-heavy and lumbering, but Mr. Lapine’s version moves with light-footed agility, in part because of Mr. Boritt’s set, which catapults the audience from scene to scene with near-cinematic velocity.”~Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal