Review: ‘Sunday in the Park with George’ at Ovations Theatre

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How often are you torn between the demands of a profession and finding a satisfactory work/life balance? James Lapine’s book about George Seurat examines the difficulty of finding a solution to this problem. Of all of the music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim in Sunday in the Park with George, the most famous is “Putting it Together” which applies to all aspects of life, not just creating art.

‘Bit by bit, putting it together

Piece by piece, only way to make a work of art

Every moment makes a contribution

Every little detail plays a part

Having just a vision’s no solution

Everything depends on execution

Putting it together, that’s what counts!’

Sunday in the Park with George followed to ‘a T’ the instructions given in ‘Putting it Together,’ Quite simply, I was blown away by every aspect of this production by Ovations Theatre, under the direction of Darnell Patrick Morris.

Like Seurat’s painting, Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, every single note and verse neared perfection and was supported by a plethora of talent on stage and off.

From the moment LJ Enloe stepped on stage as Georges Seurat, to the fading last reprise of “‘Sunday,” I was held in thrall. Enloe and Marjorie Long, as his lover, Dot, combine exquisite voices, strong stage presence and perfect poise. The momentum of the story was fully supported by orchestral accompaniment under the direction of Mayumi Baker Griffe. Stephen Sondheim’s music helps tension ebb and flow under both dialogue and the songs he wrote.

LJ Enloe (George) and Marjorie Long (DOT). Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.

Enloe and Long were representative of the whole company’s talent. Long’s opening plaintive and pouty,”Sunday in the Park with George,” and “Children and Art” was equally matched by the company’s “It’s Hot up Here” and “Putting it Together.” My program is filled with jotted notes reading ‘Wow!’ and “Amazing!”

Scenes featuring different sets of actors brought an added dimension. Claire Wilson as Yvonne and Thomas Atkinson as Jules sparkled during their performance of ‘No Life.’ In this, and throughout the play, they denigrate Seurat’s paintings and pointillism in general

A soldier, played by Brandon Goldberg, Celeste 1: Jessica Lehman (Celeste #1), Kit Flaherty (Celeste #2), and Tess Powell, as the Old Lady, and a cardboard cutout of a second soldier, added much frivolity. Their song with Enloe, ‘The One on the Left,’ was both upbeat and illustrative of the banality that Seurat saw in Paris.

Thomas Atkins (Jules) and Claire Wilson (Yvonne). Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.

One of my favorite scenes in the production is made possible by the scenic design by Morris and its implementation by master carpenter Will Wacker.  Standing behind a huge open picture frame, Enloe is engaged in painting while singing ‘Finishing the Hat.’ As his brush points toward the audience, once can clearly see the execution of pointillism, for which Seurat is famous.

Another stand-out was the replication of the painting, Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, placing the actors on the stage as they appear on the canvas. Eleanor Dicks’ costume design, from the first moment on, enabled the replication. I was oblivious to her cleverness with the garments from the painting until the cast was assembled in position before it.

Freeze frame was highly effective in this and other whole cast scenes. It forced attention on important relationships within the context of the larger community depicted in the painting.

Brandon Goldberg (Soldier), Jessica Lehman (Celeste 1), and Kit Flaherty (Celeste 2). Photo by Traci J. Brooks Studios.

My delight with the superb quality of the production, with a high school age cast, only grew as the performance progressed. Seeing any or all of them in future productions would be a delight.

Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, with one intermission.

Sunday in the Park with Georges played on March 3-5, 2017, at Ovations Theatre performing at the Historic Stage at Olney Theatre Center – 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, in Olney, MD. For information on their  upcoming production of Hairspray JR. on April 21, 22 and 23, 2017 at The Kreeger Theatre at the JCC of Greater Washington, in Rockville, MD, go to their website.

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