Sunday In The Park With George
At The Huntington Theatre Company
reviewed by Bobby Franklin
This past Saturday I saw the matinee performance of the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Sunday In The Park With George, Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical inspired by the George Seurat painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte now playing at the BU Theatre. It was my first time seeing it and I had done some research before going. Reading background pieces about the play made it sound like it was going to be a complicated work and, perhaps, a bit difficult to understand, particularly the second act.
This Sunday In The Park With George is a gift that is not to be missed.
It is complicated, but it certainly is not a difficult play to enjoy. Yes, it has many layers, and I can certainly see why so many people return to see productions of it over and over again. It is one of those works that can be viewed just on the surface or you can dig deeper and deeper and find much more you may not have known was there at first glance. And that is what makes it so wonderful.
I have come a bit late to Sondheim in my theatre going life, this being only the third work of his I have seen performed on stage, the second having just been last week when I saw the Lyric Stage production of Company. I am now hooked.
As I settled into my seat just in time for the opening act I was already taken with the set. When Jenni Barber appeared as Dot modeling for the artist George, and sang the title song, I knew this was going to be something special. Jenni Barber has talent, not just talent, but that rare ability to convey so much with a nod, a glance, and a pause at just the right time. Add to this her lovely voice, and, well, you have to see her.
This is not, however a one person show. Adam Charnier-Berat as George is in command of his role as the artist obsessed with his work. He moves about the stage with his sketch book sneaking looks at the people in the park for his painting which they will appear in. The use of the stage as a canvas for his work is pleasing to the eye with scenic design by Derek McLane.
The entire cast is very strong. I was particularly impressed with Aimee Doherty as Yvonne who underplayed her role just right. Josh Breckenridge as Jules and Bobbie Steinbach as Old Lady are a joy to watch.
The musical score by Sondheim is not one that has you leaving the theater humming the tunes. Rather, it is an integral part of the story. Sondheim writes the music in a way that complements Seurat’s pointillist style of having the eye connect the dots in a painting. The music does the same thing only for the ear. It is subtle but effective. It is played by an eleven piece orchestra conducted by Eric Stern.
As for that troublesome second act where the action moves from 1884 to 1984. I saw no problem at all with it. Under the direction of Peter DuBois it was very clear what Mr. Sondheim meant.
Sunday In The Park With George at the BU Theater is an experience theatre goers will not soon forget.
It is a delectable treat for the eyes and ears. This production connects the dots and is not to be missed. You will be sorry if you do.
The Huntington Theatre has promised to produce all of Stephen Sondheim’s plays over the next few years. This is wonderful news. If they come anywhere near the current work being performed on their stage we are in for a great ride.
It looks like I have come to Sondheim at just the right time. I encourage you to jump on board as well. Sunday In The Park With George at the BU Theater is not a bad place to start.
At the BU Theater through October 16th
Huntington Theatre Company
BU Theater, 264 Huntington Ave., Boston