Sunday in the Park with George | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Sunday in the Park with George 

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Sunday In The Park With George, Chicago Shakespeare Theater. In the illuminating vest-pocket revivals that director Gary Griffin and musical director Thomas Murray have done of Pacific Overtures for Chicago Shakespeare Theater and My Fair Lady for Court Theatre, they dispensed with lavish design to focus instead on textual nuance. But this 1984 musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine--a fictionalized account of the creation of pointillist Georges Seurat's masterpiece Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte--proves that sometimes size does matter. In perhaps no other show is the visual element more central. Just as no reproduction can do justice to Seurat's huge canvas, hanging in serene splendor at the Art Institute, so an intimate, no-frills production like this one lacks the grand perspective the musical needs to convey the agony and ecstasy of an artist whose obsessive nature distances him from the people he loves even as it spurs him to creative heights.

Still, audiences familiar with this complex material should welcome the opportunity to view it afresh, while newcomers will doubtless be charmed by the humor and sexiness of Robert Petkoff as Seurat/George, Andrea Burns as his lover/muse Dot, and a supporting cast that includes Marilynn Bogetich as Seurat's mother, Joseph Anthony Foronda as his friend and rival Jules, and Annabel Armour as Jules's wife, torn between duty to her unfaithful husband and her fascination with Seurat. This often overlooked character gains rich emotional texture in Armour's telling performance.

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