Sunday In The Park with George is an exploration of theme and variations, as well as an examination of the process of creating art. The first act deals with George Seurat and the creation of the groundbreaking pointillist painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte in 1884, the second act with his great-grandson, an artist experimenting with kinetic light sculptures a century later. George Seurat and the painting are real, all the rest is a fantasia.
Seurat invented pointillism, a technique for creating images from dots of primary colors, with more subtle colors created by placing dots of the basic colors adjacent to each other. If that sounds familiar, it should. While experimenting with how color and light mix, Seurat basically invented pixels. Another reason this particular engineer understands how important art is.
Much of the first act revolves around the relationship between George and Dot, his model for the woman with the parasol and also his lover. George is fixated on his work and often distant, and not just from Dot. He seems to spend as much time talking to the images of people he is creating on his canvas as he does to the real people around him, indeed it seems to be easier for him. In the play the images themselves are as much characters as Dot. The 2008 production we saw made good use of projections to pull a lot of that off.
George is aware enough of himself to see this. Many times in the play he says to himself “Connect George, connect!” when faced with a social situation going off the rails. I knew that feeling. It comes from being perhaps a bit too good at analyzing and observing. There is an automatic distancing that normally comes with observation that can be hard to turn off. It often required conscious effort on my part to break through that. But not with her. Connecting with her was never a problem, not from our first meeting. There was something so utterly disarming about her that I didn’t even notice how close we got, and how quickly. She didn’t either. Our friends saw what was going on before we did.
For thirty years I had someone who not only connected with me, but connected me with the people around us. It wasn’t always as effortless as those first months, but it was always there. Raising a family together taught me plenty about being present in the moment, too.
For that last seven months, though, those connections have been severed. The connections with family still come easily enough, but now when I am together with friends I find myself back in that old distanced state, and again there is that old refrain “Connect, dammit, connect”.