Friday, April 24, 2009

Sunday in the Park with George - 5th Avenue Theatre

Sunday in the Park with George

5th Avenue Theatre

Tickets and Information

April 21 - May 10, 2009

“Composition.  Tension.  Balance.  Light.  Harmony.” (Sunday in the Park with George)  [need something else here]  Seurat, and his intriguing legacy, is what Sondheim sculpts and forms into the artistic masterpiece that is Sunday in the Park with George, that was so faithfully recreated here at the 5th Ave. from its first appearance as a revival in the West End of Broadway two years ago.  It got five Oliver Awards, nine Tony nominations, and one Drama Desk Award for their highly visual and interactive conceptualization of one of Sondheim’s most minimalistic works.

Hugh Panaro and Billie Wildrick. Photo by Chris Bennion 2009.

Originally conceived for a performance in the Menier Chocolate Factory (yes, a chocolate factory converted into a theater!), the production team led by director Sam Buntrock is responsible for the production that was seen in London, the West End in New York, and what can be seen now at the 5th Avenue Theatre.  Buntrock’s background in animation, teamed with Timothy Bird and Knifedge The Creative Network’s digital video projection systems creates an artistic element rarely seen in such traditional shows as Sunday in the Park with George.  All of these individual theatrical points, when seen as a whole with proper lighting and perspective, allow the eye to combine them on David Farley’s set as Seurat’s paintings allow the viewer to perceive contrasting red and blue dots as a purple flower.

While Sam Buntrock brought his production to Seattle, he allowed the almost fully Pacific Northwestern cast (excepting Hugh Panaro as the title character) to make it their own.  Seattle theatre-goers will be happy to see faces they will recognize such as Anne Allgood (Nurse/ Mrs./ Harriet Pawling) and Allen Fitzpatrick (Jules/Bob Greenberg) from countless local productions.  The cast pulls together an extraordinarily tight ensemble that literally makes Seurat’s painting come to life.

One kink in the consistently spectacular production is the artificial sound elements at the beginning of the second act (Note: There is a second act.  Akin to Sondheim’s Into the Woods, the first act, though seemingly conclusive, is not the end of the story.)  While in keeping with the 100 year gap between the first and second acts, Ken Travis’ sound design is too abrasive as the first and only sound that is heard in the production.

Sunday in the Park with George is a beautifully sculpted piece of theatrical art that envelopes the audience in composition, tension, balance, light, and harmony.  While being a very enlightening and innovative production, it is not one to be taken lightly—and clocking in at three hours, we recommend a good double shot of espresso.

Review by Nigel Andrews and Gwynn Garland

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