Inspired by the art of Georges Seurat, the nineteenth-century
pointilliste painter, specifically a painting entitled "A
Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," Sunday
in the Park With George opens with George beginning a fresh-light
figure study of his mistress, Dot, on an island somewhere in
the Seine. Dot is not turning out to be the most cooperative
subject, fidgeting and complaining. There are other people out
and about on the tiny island as well, a group of boys, for example,
shouting insults from the other side of the water and another
painter, Jules, who disdains George's artwork. But as George
knows, reality can always be improved upon, and with a sweep
of his brush, he transforms the mocking boys into a band of youthful
angels. Likewise, each of the other characters in the painting
is wiped clean of their ugliness, rearranged and improved upon
until George has created a work of art incorporating order, design,
symmetry, balance and harmony. Unfortunately, burying oneself
in one's work can often cause certain unforeseen repercussions,
and George soon learns that Dot has decided to leave him. She
is running away to America with a baker to make pastries. What
George doesn't know is that Dot is carrying his child.
In Act Two, we jump to 1984 where another George, the grandson
of the daughter Dot bore to George in Act One, has been commissioned
to create a piece of mechanical performance art to celebrate
the 100th anniversary of his great-grandfather's painting. This
present-day George, however, is at a creative impasse. After
completing his seventh "chromolume," he has begun to
question whether he is finished as an artist--that is, until
he receives an unexpected visit from the ghost of his great-grandmother
who has a special message for him.
Sunday in the Park With George was originally staged
as a Playwrights Horizons workshop production in July of 1983.
It then opened at the Booth Theatre on May 2, 1984, with a cast
that featured Mandy Patinkin (George) and Bernadette Peters (Dot/Marie).
This production ran for 604 performances and went on to win Sondheim
and Lapine the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for drama.