A Stephen Sondheim musical may fill audiences with admiration, but they will likely not be humming a tune after the curtain call.
Billed as a comedy, “Company” is more of a psycho-drama with some comic relief. It was considered advanced in 1970, dealing with adult issues and not entertainment.
Set in Manhattan, the show opens as the central character Robert (Gregory Gorrindo) listens to phone messages on his 35th birthday. He gulps down a few drinks, and shows no enthusiasm about a “surprise” celebration.
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His friends are all couples.
There is know-it all Sarah (Felecia Hall) and her defensive husband, Harry (Conrad Mendoza); Southern belle Susan (Lauren Moore) and Ivy League Peter (Sergio Gavidia) and square Jenny (Tara Brinkman) and hip David (Jesse Wadell). And don’t forget manic Catholic Amy (Casey Canino) and her Jewish fiancé, Paul (Bryce Prunty) or jaded Joanne (Priscilla McRoberts) and her third husband, doting Larry (John Mackey).
As they rigidly stand in the dim background delivering repeated versions of his name in a chant-like tribute, they seem like apparitions in a disturbing dream.
Rob’s friends are concerned that he’s still a bachelor. Their own relationships are revealed to be less than ideal. It could be a case of misery loves company.
One at a time, the middle-class “me” generation couples entertain him in their New York apartments or a nightclub. They probe and analyze him about his single status.
Rob is in no rush to settle down. He’s basically considering his options.
Rob’s three casual girlfriends — slow-witted April (Sarah Ruth Smith), small-town girl Kathy (Christina Fountain) and sophisticated Mata (Theresa Riforgiate) — have nothing in common. And none pass muster with the females among the couples.
“Company” director Jill Turnbow makes good use of the space, with some actors taking center stage as the others remain in the background awaiting their turns
The talented castmembers have strong musical backgrounds, necessary to capture Sondheim’s unusual songs.
The entire play has a jazz-like quality, with variations on the same theme, interjected with individual stories. Some songs are more percussion-like than melodic.
Performing some dance movements, the men give it their best shot, but singing is their strong suit. In another scene, the cast nearly leaps around the stage talking, laughing and looking delightfully animated.
During their solos, a couple of the women sing gloriously, and although the lyrics are sung so rapidly that they’re often undecipherable, it’s still thrilling, like listening to a foreign language. When the singers perform in unison, their words aren’t often clear but the overall sound is pleasurable.
The live musicians playing in the background often drown out the singers.
Considered among the most cynical and innovative of Broadway plays for its time, “Company” has undergone revisions to keep it from being dated.
Sondheim and his collaborator, George Furth, acutely capture young heterosexual couples that most audience members will recognize, if not identify with, on some level. The feat is daring, and ironical, and indicative of their talents, considering that the men not only belong to an older generation but are also both gay.
A television and movie actor, Furth wrote the 12 one-act plays that eventually became “Company.” Furth considered “Company” to be the peak of his career.
Contact freelance writer Lee Sutter at firstname.lastname@example.org.