Composition on Canvas – a review of “Sunday in the Park with George” – DRAFT

Mike Buzzelli

By Micheal “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant

“White, a blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole, through design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony.”

The power of one particular painting spans a century in Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Sunday in the Park with George.”

Georges Seurat (Alex Fetzko), best known for his iconic painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” toils away at the eponymous work while discovering techniques with color and light utilizing pointillism (The technique relies on the ability of the eye and mind of the viewer to blend the color spots into a fuller range of tones). His obsession with his work, however, causes his girlfriend, Dot (Rachel Cahoon), to question their relationship.

Side note: Obviously Dot’s name is a pun, but why belabor the point?

Denizens of the park on the Island of La Grande Jatte notice the artist sketching every Sunday as they cool themselves by the Seine – unaware that he is sketching them for his masterpiece.

He sketches an Old Lady (Lielle Kaidar) and her Nurse (Courteney McClutchy), a Boatman (Jeremy Spoljarick), two women both named Celeste (Sophie Aknin and Mei Lu Barnum), soldiers (Kurt Kemper and Jackson Walker) and more. George can capture their likenesses but he can’t seem to connect with anyone, especially Dot.

The artist is particularly unlikable. Dot finally leaves him and moves to America with her husband, Louis (Jaquel Spivey) and her child Marie.

When the second act opens, one hundred years have passed.

It’s 1984, and another George (also Alex Fetzko) is planning his own more modern exhibit using sound, light and lasers in a homage to “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” with the help of his grandmother Marie (Kayla Nicosia).

Marie is of course Dot’s baby, and, therefore Seurat’s illegitimate daughter. Bit by bit – the play comes together.

The cast slowly assembles into their positions on the painting.
Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” Oil on Canvas, 1884. Art Institute of Chicago.

The musical has a large cast and a lot of moving pieces. Nonetheless, director Michael Rupert does a magnificent job keeping the play running smoothly.

Fetzko is marvelous as the two Georges. He’s a tremendous singer.

Cohoon’s Dot is terrific. The character has to carry much of the first act, and she does it with aplomb. Her vocal range is fantastic.

There are some great performances by Spoljarick, Kemper, Pierre Mballa and Yael Karoly.

“Sunday in the Park with George” is visually stunning thanks to scenic designer Johnmichael Bohach and costume designer Michael Montgomery. At the top of the second act, the actors become a living tableau – posing exactly like the characters in the painting. It’s a glorious moment.

The show bursts with light and color thanks to lighting designer Andrew David Ostrowski, sound designer Steve Shapiro with video design by William “Buzz” Miller (nice nickname Mr. Miller).

These aren’t the most memorable songs in the Sondheim collection, but they are sung perfectly by the cast – aided by a Camille Rolla’s orchestra.

At one point, Marie says “There are only two worthwhile things to leave behind when you depart this world of ours – children and art.” Point Park’s “Sunday in the Park with George” is an excellent piece of art.


“Sunday in the Park with George” runs until March 24, at the PNC Theatre in the Pittsburgh Playhouse, 350 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. For more information, click here.




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