By Joanne Engelhardt
For its current production of Sunday in the Park with George, Los Altos Stage Company turned its proscenium into a gold frame – a very large gold frame, thanks to the efforts of scenic designer Skip Epperson.
The James Lapine-Steven Sondheim musical gets a credible showing at LASC, despite the relatively small stage available to the actors and set pieces. The musicians are hidden behind a wall that includes several screens representing some of the artwork created by French artist Georges Seurat, who almost singlehandedly established the technique of Pointillism in 1886. Lapine apparently preferred to use the Americanized version of his name in his play.
Director Alex Perez chose his 14 actors with precision, not so much in their physical appearance as for their strong characterizations. It’s certainly not easy for each of the actors to portray two distinct characters, yet most came through with flying colors.
…JoAnn Birdsall’s costumes add another rich layer to this production. The sound, light, and props are equally important parts…
Act 1 takes place in 1884 when Georges is attempting to hone his painting style by separating out different aspects of his art: “White, a blank page or canvas. The challenge: bring order to the whole, through design, composition, tension, balance, light and harmony.”
As the play begins, Seurat’s model and live-in girlfriend Dot (Alycia Adame) is standing at the park wearing a tight corset and gown, complaining how hot it is to be out in the sun and begging Seurat to let her stand in the shade.
His response: “Don’t move. Look out at the sea!” She begrudgingly complies until finally surprising the audience by stepping away from the dress (which stands up all by itself!) and telling him she won’t pose any longer.
This give-and-take is pretty indicative of their relationship, which eventually ends because Seurat clearly values working on his art far more than he does spending time with her. She begins dating the baker, Louis (played by Bryan Moriarty, in four roles), whom she later marries and has a child – something she’s always wanted.
There are a number of other fine performances here including Penelope DaSilva as a very spoiled child, Louise, who ignores her mother and annoys people who are trying to enjoy a Sunday in the park. Other standouts: Andrew Kracht as the “live” Toy Soldier; Linda Piccone as both Georges’ mother and as Blair Daniels in Act 2, and Kate Matheson as Celeste.
Sunday’s score has at least 15 songs, so an orchestra is as essential as the actors. Brian Allan Hobbs leads a small, five-person orchestra from behind the scenery with just a small opening that allows the actors to begin singing at the right moment. Some of Sondheim’s best here are “”Sunday” (of course!), “We Do Not Belong Together,” “Putting it Together,” “It’s Hot Up Here” and “Move On.”
JoAnn Birdsall’s costumes add another rich layer to this production. The sound, light, and props are equally important parts.
The clear highlight is what’s known as the “tableau” that ends Act 1. This is when all the actors in Act 1 line up precisely where Georges wants them in order to recreate his most famous painting, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”
(NOTE: Some performances have been cancelled due to a cast member contracting COVID. Check LASC website for available dates.)
Aisle Seat Executive Reviewer Joanne Engelhardt is a Peninsula theatre writer and critic. She is a voting member of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC). Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Production||Sunday in the Park with George|
|Music & Lyrics by||Stephen Sondheim|
|Book by||James LaPine|
|Directed by||Alex Perez|
|Producing Company||Los Altos Stage Company|
|Production Dates||Thru June 25th|
|Production Address||Bus Barn 97 Hillview Avenue, Los Altos|
|Tickets||$20 - $40|
|Reviewer Score||Max in each category is 5/5|
|Aisle Seat Review Pick?||----|