Sunday in the Park with George
By Steven Sondheim
Book by James Lapine
Directed by Tim Williams
Starring Matt Horohoe, Hannah Laird, and Meghan Moroney
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL
I missed the star-studded opening gala but still got down to Mad Cow’s new space on Church Street for the opening weekend of “Sunday in the Park with George.” The space is open and elegant, a bit echoey in some places, and bathrooms are free of that creepy restroom attendant you’d meet in the old place. And as a nod to the old space, there’s an awkward column centered in the Harriett theatre’s audience. I suggest we all call it “Ralphy.”
“Sunday in the Park with George” is one of Sondheim’s toughest and most challenging shows. It introduces us to Georges Seurat (Horohoe); he’s the guy that painted exclusively with small dots of pure color. Some people tie this to the invention of digital image processing; I attribute it as a response to a crisis that struck the late 19th century art world – photography. Camera were more lifelike, thus art had to become less life like. In this cleverly constructed show, Seurat paints the working class out for a summer’s relaxation on a Parisian island. His subjects come to life, complain, move props, and speculate on his social life. Jealous competitors Jules (David Almeida) drops by, his model Dot (Laird) complains about the heat, and his mother (Moroney) acts as a generally uncooperative relative. She’s not happy about something or other; most likely it’s Dot’s pregnancy. In the second act, we meet his grandson (Horohoe) and the daughter he never knew as they act out the exact same arty power games in a modern gallery complete with an exotic new art form that no one appreciates properly.
Horohoe almost appeared as two separate men; in the first act he was distant and obsessive, in the second open and self effacing. He even passed out masks of himself in the gallery after party. Laird’s Dot mixed fawning affection with the sneaking suspicion that Seurat would ditch her when the time came, which any good fin-de-siècle artist in Paris must do. Megan Mahoney was best as the skeptical and feisty mother ordering her nurse (Amanda Leaky) around, as the Art Critic in the second act she seems… well…too critical. Steve Jones rocked the show as the limping boat man with the cut-out dog and an in-your-face attitude.
Musically, the show went flawless with Robin Jensen directing a quartet somewhere behind the panoramic paintings of Lisa Buck’s set. I sort of wanted to see them, but you can hear music but must see painting. Horohoe and the cast sang the difficult music well, but this is a musical where you can spend entire acts hunting for a melody that doesn’t sound like an atonal jazz improv. Mahoney’s “Beautiful” as approachable as the music got, and “Putting it together” was nearly comic in scope. I suppose the connection is Seurat breaking boundaries in graphic arts and Sondheim do in the same musically, but this IS a difficult show and not at all a taps and glitter musical although they were a few top hats. As a shakedown for the new space, this is a solid show. It might take a while for everyone to find the place and the Orlando Magic schedule will become a big part of your theatre planning, but Mad Cow has moved up in elegance and forward in doing the challenging material.
Mad Cow Theatre’s s new space is located at 54 West Church Street over the Five Guys restaurant. Recommend parking is in the Central Garage at 55 Pine Street although other options are available. Church Street is often closed at night so allow plenty of time for your first visit.
For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com