Craving Connections

Article excerpt

Craving connections

DaPoPo stages Sunday in the Park in Halifax

REVIEW BY STEPHEN CLOUTIER

DaPoPo Theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has dedicated itself to bringing challenging, politically-tinged and philosophically-edged theatre to its Canadian audiences and has begun to develop not only a local following but also an international identity, having taken past productions to Berlin. DaPoPo has committed itself to providing audiences with productions that engage with contemporary debates. Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Sunday in the Park with George, given its tension between art and social conformity, was an obvious choice for DaPoPo's June 2007 production. The show's exploration of the conflict between art and commercial success is still relevant in society with its attempts at creating a fast track to fame. In fact, it is a hotly debated issue within Halifax's independent theatre scene, as a number of companies try to eke out an existence.

Staged in the Art Gallery of St. Mary's University, the minimalist, low-tech design by director Eric Benson and lighting designer Tom Barkley kept audiences focused on the ideas explored by Sondheim and Lapine. The art gallery setting reminded the audience that the struggle to attain lasting artistic achievement is constant. Forms might change - Seurat's pointillism might be replaced with George's laser technology - but the impetus remains to create something that lasts in a medium that can be transitory, shifting from one "ism" to another.

Eschewing more high-tech effects, while reducing the financial strain on an independent theatre company, prevented the audience from being too caught up in the technical wizardry of flashing lights. The stage lights, on short stands on the floor at the sides of the playing area, as well as the technician who changed their colored gels during the performance, were completely visible to the audience. The technical highlight was two technicians on stage with flashlights standing in for a laser display to an effective electronic soundcsape by Ed Renzi. (Pete Gorman's masterful piano playing replaced a fuller orchestral accompaniment.) The production made it clear that the ideas, the debate within the show, are the key.

Garry Williams, DaPoPo's artistic director, played George; Stephanie Dick was Dot. They brilliantly portrayed two characters struggling and ultimately failing to understand each other, yet trying sometimes desperately to connect. …