Sunday In The Park With George Review—Talia Suskauer Sparkles In The Light

By   |   March 18, 2024   |   Entertainment

Sunday in the Park with George was Stephen Sondheim’s first major musical after his creative depression over the Broadway failure of Merrily We Roll Along (now a successful revival with Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez). His lyrics contain many insights into the compulsion and busyness in its fictionalized George Surat, the French painter who innovated the painstaking pointillism style that populates A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. But it’s also about those who stand painfully still so the artist can manifest his vision.

Sunday in Park with George is just as much about Dot, played by Talia Suskauer, who doubles as Marie, George’s fictionalized mistress. At the New Jersey-based staging in the Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Suskauer is a very special Dot.

Graham Phillips embodies George Surat and dutifully illustrates his fixations. He has an excellent physical showcase when he gets on all fours and inhabits the world of two park canines.

But ah, the dynamic Suskauer often outmatches him in gravity. She poses and concentrates (and sweats) for her life. She also grimaces for her life. She injects this playful spirit into her disdainful banters with George. When Suskauer and Phillips play their descendants in Act Two, they are this rapturous grandmother-grandson pair.

Director and choreographer Eamon Foley interlaces dance with the formations of George’s visions or other displays of the artist’s psyche (thanks to six impressive dancers of the Axelrod Contemporary Ballet Theater). The result is slightly mixed but lovely, with clever choreography in “Color and Light.” Music director-conductor Jacob Yates mines pleasing textures in the orchestration. The costume design by DW also yields impressive work, especially for the lived-in quality of the second act’s modern setting. Actress Joy Hermalyn (as George’s mother and later an art critic) steals command of any of her speaking scenes.

The first act is moving and all. But then something clicks by the second act, which throws a series of subtle-to-grand emotional wallops. I’ve heard the usual criticism that the second act’s major time skip is often difficult to parse, but the second act hits like the satisfactory completion of a puzzle. Is it simply the formula of James Lapine‘s script and Sondheim’s lyrics? Here, Phillips and Suskaue guide us seamlessly through these artistic quests of vision and legacy.

Sunday in the Park with George runs till March 24th. For more information about the production and Axelrod, see here.

Photo credits: Micheal Hull

Filed Under: Entertainment
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