|"A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat
Art Institute of Chicago
The second act takes place in a museum 100 years later, where the figures jump out of the painting, and we meet George's great-grandson, also named George, also an artist. The story delves into the nature of art, artists, and commercialism vs. staying true to one's art (similar themes as in the play Red about painter Mark Rothko). Act II has a very different tone than the Act I, and I found myself wanting to return to the world of the painting. In my research (i.e., Wikipedia), I ran across this quote the New York Times review (by Ben Brantley) of the 2008 Broadway revival, "Sunday remains a lopsided piece - pairing a near-perfect, self-contained first act with a lumpier, less assured second half." But fortunately, things take a satisfying turn at the end when young George returns to the island in the painting and is able to achieve some resolution for his great-grandfather, who died young.
|Joey Clark as George and Jennifer Eckes as Dot
The costumes and set are so important to this piece, because the audience has to believe that these characters came out of the painting, and BCT does a beautiful job creating the effect (set by Robin McIntyre and costumes by Ed Gleeman). The white set pieces we see at the beginning are removed to reveal a large-scale replica of the background of the painting, with trees dropping in from overheard. The costumes are exquisite and look very similar to the painting (including impressive bustles!). At the end of the first act a scrim is lowered at the front of the stage with the image of the painting on it, in front of the live action painting arranged on the set, and it's a spectacular effect. Last but not least, a highlight for me of any BCT show is the traditional pit orchestra led by Anita Ruth. The music sounds like George's painting, and he often paints to the music - short and staccato, in unexpected blobs.
It's a great time for Sondheim, and this show is a nice pair to Theater Latte Da's Company. With every additional Sondheim show I see, I feel like I'm "Putting It Together" a bit more and understanding his work a little bit more. I've seen several shows since I heard him speak two and half years ago, and it's been fun. Next on my Sondheim wishlist is Assassins, which I've never seen. But until then, go see these two wonderfully different but quintessentially Sondheim shows! Check out the BCT website for more info on Sunday in the Park with George, or take advantage of the half-price tickets available on Goldstar.com.