BWW Review: SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE at Cotuit Center For The Arts
White: a blank page or canvas.
Sunday in the Park with George is a musical about the "art of making art" and two artists' journeys of filling in a blank canvas. It tells the story of George, a fictionalized version of the real George Seurat, and the creation of his famous painting, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," and his great-grandson, who is also named George, and his struggle to create something meaningful and new. With a book by James Lapine and music by Stephen Sondheim, it is a musical experience one will not forget. The original Broadway Production opened in1984 at the Booth Theater, and went on to win two Tony Awards, eight Drama Desk Awards, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1985. It's appropriate, then, to produce this show in a space that is surrounded by art.
Cotuit Center for the Arts not only produces theatrical productions, but offers various types of classes, hosts events and concerts, and exhibits art from local, regional, and International Artists. In fact, the gallery, located in the lobby of the mainstage theater, is showcasing "Piece by Piece III," a collaborative rendition of "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" which includes work from 150 different Cape Cod artists. This artsy atmosphere offered a wonderful backdrop to a show that brings life to a painting.
Upon walking into the theater, one finds the stage to be bare and painTEd White, as if to emulate a blank canvas, so many possibilities. The only hint that there was something more to come lay in the mock-proscenium arch that framed the stage, painted in the pointillism style Seurat was known for. In the opening moments and throughout the play we watch as the set, designed by Andrew Arnault, unfolds itself into a living version of Seurat's painting. There were a million dots covering the painted panels, trees, and backdrops; at times the dots were meticulously placed, but other times they felt sloppy. Overall, the effect supports the painting-come-to-life style of the show. The lights, designed by Greg Hamm, helped to fill in any blank spaces on the "canvas" and reflects the emotions of the scenes. The costumes, designed by Amy Canaday, felt as if they had danced off the canvas and into life. The music, under the direction of Henry Buck, orchestrated a hauntingly beautiful undertone to the entire show. The pit is located on the stage behind the scrim, and offers a visual distraction for the audience during scene changes that so easily take the audience out of the world of the play. The intermission music, while nonconventional, helps to close the 100-year gap from Acts 1 and 2.
The ensemble did a relatively good job at differentiating the two different time periods encapsulated within this show. Of course, the design elements helped to differentiate the jump, but many of the actors themselves had to create two different characters that were so different I couldn't always make the connection of which two characters were played by the same actor. Anthony Teixeira, that actor who portrayed both Georges, had the difficult task of creating two characters that were so similar, yet still independent from each other. I saw the strife of the struggling artist in both 1880s George and 1980s George, while both are trying to marry science and art closer together.
In the end, I felt the Cotuit Center for the Arts did a wonderful job breathing life into this show, and is certainly worth the trip to go and see it. Sunday in the Park with George will be playing at Cotuit Center for the Arts until July 30th. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at (508) 428-0669, extension 120, or on their website: http://www.cotuitcenterforthearts.org.