Sometimes, when you’re walking through Georgetown toward the car after dinner, you get caught in a rainstorm so unbelievably torrential that your you cannot see 10 feet in front of you and your umbrella is utterly useless and you end up soaked to the bone. So wet that by the time you’ve sat through an entire performance of Sunday in the Park with George your undergarments are still damp and your shoes are still squelchy and you are basically at least 30% popsicle from the air conditioning.
And sometimes at the end of that performance of Sunday you’ve cried so much you’re blowing literal snot-bubbles when you try to breathe and you’re just so, so thankful it’s dark and no one can see you. Or like, you really hope no one can see you because you forgot tissues so your scarf will have to do and this is embarrassing. Except you’re kind of not that embarrassed because like… THIS IS MOVING MATERIAL, OKAY?!
Wait that’s… That’s just me?
Well. That happened. This past weekend in fact, down at the Signature Theatre in Washington, DC., where their lovely/emotionally devastating — if straightforward — production of Sondheim’s Pulitzer Prize winning show, starring Claybourne Elder and Brynn O’Malley is running through September 21st.
Now, before I say anything else about this show that I really, really loved, I have a confession to make. Because it would be sort unfair if I didn’t make it: I think Claybourne Elder is a pretty glorious human being just in general. We met at a Bonnie & Clyde press event and bonded over Sara Brightman’s pure craptacularity and at this point I basically follow him around the country to see his performances (Pippin in KC, Georges in DC) and he never treats me like the creepy stalker I probably am. Instead, he just gives the biggest, best hugs ever and notices things like the ever-changing style of my hair. He’s just that kind of guy.
Anyway. I’m mentioning that bias up front because it’s only fair to do so before I tell you that Clay has now tied himself for the first place position on the very important/hotly contested The Mick’s List of Favorite George(s). And not because he gave me a good hug after the show. Or almost poked his thumb right through my right eyeball when I made a nearly-disastrous turn to face him at the bar.
No. It’s because his performance as George(s) was simultaneously the most aloof and the most emotional I’ve ever witnessed. Which maybe sounds weird. But I think it was that emotional distance in early scenes that really gave heft to his feelings when they finally broke through, especially in scenes like “We Do Not Belong Together.”
The thing is, though, I don’t think any George(s) can pull it off without an excellent Dot by his side. And I’ve seen some excellent Dots, but none of them have been as excellent as Brynn O’Malley — get ready for this girl, Broadway, I don’t think you’re ever going to be able to look back. O’Malley took Dot from sort of nag-y, whine-y sidekick with a real fondness for Georges, to this whole other thing. To this woman who had a power and intelligence of her own (and not just in relationship to Georges). It was great. So, so great.
There was just an emotionality to both Elder and O’Malley’s performances that cast their whole relationship in a different light. At intermission, Lucky looked at me and said “This is the first time I’ve ever really believed Georges loved Dot.” And though it wasn’t, strictly speaking, the first time for me, I understood what she meant. The way they related to each other in that first act was so much more unique and powerful than any production I’ve seen before.
So I just… I loved it. And I wish I could see it again, maybe six more times. And I swear if I could, I’d remember my tissues next time. Because like… that scarf will probably never be the same again. But it’s okay. Because Sunday is always worth it.
And if you’ll excuse me, now, I’m going to go commit some emotional self-harm and listen to “Finishing the Hat” over and over while worrying that I’m going to die alone and unappreciated just like Georges did.
ps. For your reference, Clay is tied with Jason Danieley, who I loved for very different reasons and in very different scenes. He is then very closely followed by Mandy Patinkin and Daniel Evans.
pps. We interviewed Clay for Broadway Radio a little while back and he was lovely and charming and told us about the most famous fake baby on Broadway and how he approached the voices of the dogs in Sunday and also was just great. You can listen to it here.