Saturday, June 24, 2023

Sondheim Festival VI: Sunday in the Park with George

I'd thought my spate of attending Sondheim productions was over, but last week I saw a poster in downtown Mtn View: a local theater group I'd never heard of, Los Altos Stage Company, was currently running a production of Sunday in the Park with George, which I'd never seen, in a theater I'd never heard of despite it being right behind the Los Altos library, which I go to all the time. It's called the Bus Barn Theater, and it lives down to what you'd expect of that name, except for two things: the acoustics are good and the sight lines not bad.

B. wanted to go too, so we bought tickets.

The performers were all excellent. They didn't have the not quite ready for prime time quality of some local theater groups, but were fully on top of their parts like some others I've seen. The problem was with the show itself. It's not very good.

The music is all characteristically Sondheim, but there's nothing in it particularly memorable, though some of the lyrics were amusing. But the plot, which is by James Lapine, suffers from an inherent flaw which didn't afflict the next Sondheim show, Into the Woods, which Lapine also concocted. Act 1 - which is tediously overlong - is all about Georges Seurat painting his famous work A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. And the problem with that is what I found in the movie about J.M.W. Turner, which is that watching a painter paint is just desperately dull and boring to see, that's all there is to it.

In Act 2, Seurat's (imaginary) American great-grandson, also an artist and played by the same actor, endures vapid cocktail party chatter after his latest installation, and then he visits the river island in Paris where his ancestor's famous painting is set. Here the figures in that painting - which as people had floated boringly around Act 1 - come alive and talk to him. Mercifully quick ending.

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