"SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE" TRES (VERY) REMARKABLE


BONNIE GOLDBERG

"Sunday in the Park with George," a musical by the writing team of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, deals with art in general and with artist George Seurat in particular. Covering two time periods a century apart, 1884 and 1984, and two countries, France and America, it explores the relationships of an artist to his work and the reactions of the critics and the public.

 

The Yale School of Drama has created a masterful, technically challenging, stunningly beautiful portrait of the struggling artist trying to prove his worth to himself first and foremost, and simultaneously garnering the adoration and admiration of his community of colleagues. Until Thursday, December 20, enter the artist's world at the University Theatre, 222 York Street, New Haven. You will never look at a paint brush and palette in quite the same way again.

 

Mitchell Winter embodies the souls of both artists named George who share a passion for creating and a direct lineal relationship, although the George of the twentieth century resists the idea that Seurat, the pointillist, could be his great grandfather.

 

With exquisite style and attention to detail, we witness the birth of an idea, as Seurat conceives it, of people strolling in the park by a river on a sunny Sunday afternoon. With consideration for composition, balance, light and harmony, he takes a large white canvas and structures his ideas into a pleasing arrangement. Using the neighborhood patrons, bakers, soldiers, lovers, families and roustabouts, even his mother and her nurse, he moves them within his mental framework, using dots and specks of color that execute his vision of the whole.

 

Monique Bernadette Barbee's Dot is his muse, his inspiration, who only gets his attention when she is his model set in a pose. The announcement that she is carrying his child is greeted with silence and disinterest and he allows her to marry Louis, the baker, (Jeremy Lloyd) without a pang of regret.

 

His focus is consumed by his art and the completion of his painting "Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte" is his goal. On stage, it is astonishingly lovely.

 

The George of the next century is also consumed with his creations. Like his predecessor, he wants his art to be appreciated and become a commercial success. He, too, is plagued with doubts as he tries to conceive a totally new art form. Ethan Heard directs this truly talented troupe who embrace this remarkable play and make it totally their own.

 

For tickets ($25), call the Yale Repertory Theatre at 203-432-1234 or online at http://drama.yale.edu. Performances are Monday-Thursday at 8 p.m., with general seating.

 

Watch a grand painting, one of only a handful that Seurat painted but never sold, come to life before your eyes as you are made privy to the artist's vision and soul.

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