One great and glorious advantage that the theater used to have over the movies was the third dimension. You knew that when you watched actors on stage that they were just as fully rounded – physically, I mean – as the people in the lobby at intermission.
In the past few years, though, filmmakers have been co-opting the third dimension for themselves. Once James Cameron’s “Avatar” broke box office records with the help of silly-looking 3-D glasses, what had been a novelty (and a punch line) in the 1950s started to be taken very seriously.
Now, as if from some perverse competitive spirit, the theater has decided to step back into two dimensions, in a big way. True, actors remain irreducibly of flesh and blood. But that doesn’t mean that what’s around them has to share their unchangeable spatial identities. In scenic design these days, the biggest thing in the theater is film.