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The White Canvas Obsession

A brilliant director has his brilliant cast paint a brilliant picture on the stage of the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami's Arsht Center.

And the live music is brilliant.

Wow, such praise. But Zoetic's production of SUNDAY IN THE PARK is worthy.

Stephen Sondheim and James Lepine's musical (it won the '85 Pulitzer for Drama) celebrates French painter Georges Seurat's life and his introduction of pointillism in his major work, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jattet.

And here's the painting:

A lengthy piece, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE devotes the first act to Paris in the 1880s. Director Stuart Meltzer starts with the white canvas of the painted brick colonnades and marble floor and an upstage video screen. Dot (Kimberly Doreen Burns) poses for her lover, George (Cooper Grodin). He sketches the park, the lake, the boats and the people enjoying their Sunday. His work appears on the video screen and the actors appear on stage, each in shades of white, and as the scenes change, stories told and songs sung, the colors brighten; costumes, stage, screen.

George's obsession with his art to the detriment of his affair with Dot, his abandonment of her despite her pregnancy, his constant seeking of approval from his peers, and the intimate details of his subjects' lives are revealed in striking beats until at last the original painting is replicated with the cast posed on stage singing Sunday.

Act Two moves the action forward to 1984 and Cooper Grodin is now George, an avant garde artist, and Kimberly Doreen Burns is Marie, George's 98 year old grandmother and daughter of Dot and the original George. New George is no better wired than his great grandfather. He suffers. He worries that he may not be doing the right thing with his art and eventually his long dead great grandmother, Dot, appears to tell him there is no right path and that he must stop dithering, make a choice and just do it. So there.

The strong cast also includes Carol Caselle, Margot Moreland, Chaz Mena, Stephen G. Anthony, Anna Lise Jensen, Michael Freshko, Rick Hvizdak, Kelly Gabrielle Murphy, Jayne Ng, Michael Scott Ross, Lucia Fernandez De Los Muros, Jeni Hacker, Jonah Robinson, Shannon Booth and Bennett Leeds.

You'll swear there's a full orchestra off stage but that's the artistry of only five musicians: Eric Alsford, conductor/keyboards; Nicole Patrick, Percussion; Rick Kissinger, Reeds; Elena Alamilla, cello and Casey Maltese, French Horn.

Scenic design by Michael McClain, video animation by Greg Duffy, lighting by Rebecca Montero, sound by Dan Mayer, costumes by Angelina Esposito and properties by Vanessa Elise.

Two minor niggles in an otherwise splendid show: the dead rabbit wig on grandmother Marie and the shoddy white jacket on Jules.

Sondheim's anything but pop music presents a challenge to any singer but with Eric Alsford's musical direction and Stuart Meltzer's staging, Zoetic's "Sunday in the Park with George" is an evening of endless delight.

Playing through February 12 at the Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd, Miami. 305-949-6722

Photo: Cooper Grodin as Georges

Credit: Justin Namon

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