Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Company"

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entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark


"Company"

Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by George Furth
Directed by Larry Carpenter
Choreography by Daniel Pelzig
Music Director F. Wade Russo

Set Design by Loren Sherman
Lighting Design Phil Monat
Costume Design by Toni-Leslie James
Sound Design by Duncan Edwards
Photography by Mark Morelli
Stage Manager Jennifer Lynn Brown

Robert........................Davis Gaines
Harry........................Andy Umberger
Sarah..........................Susan Cella
Peter........................John Schiappa
Susan...........................Terri Bibb
David........................William Parry
Jenny.....................Maureen Silliman
Paul.............................Dann Fink
Amy.............................Tia Speros
Larry.......................Walter Charles
Joanne.........................Karen Mason
Kathy..........................Kim Lindsay
Marta.......................Angela Lockett
April........................Marie Danvers

Piano/Conductor...............F.Wade Russo
Reeds....................Katherine Matasy,
Stuart Dunkel, Judy Bedford
Trumpet.....................Jonathan Clark
Trombone....................Walter Bostian
Percussion..............Douglas Lippincott
Synthesizer............Catherine Stornetta
Bass......................Richard Appleman


I just saw a brilliant new show, called "Company".

Yes, I know the Sondheim/Furth musical was 27 years old last month. Actually, I reviewed it on its way to Broadway, and my fiancee and I bought seats in the back row of the Shubert to see it again the last week before it left Boston. I was married, separated, and divorced to this musical, I wore the grooves of the original cast's lp through to the other side, and the little documentary about making that original cast recording is one of my favorite films. But what Director Larry Carpenter and the Huntington Theatre Company could not improve upon they perform dead solid perfectly, to the point where anyone seeing "Company" here for the first time will think that, yes, the original cast is quite good, but only an echo of the Huntington's perfection.

Carpenter keeps the focus on Bobby the bachelor --- facing his annual, ritual "surprise" 35th birthday-party --- instead of on the ten "good and crazy married friends" throwing it for him. As the show starts Bobby is a photographer/artist trying to paint a self-portrait, and as it ends he has achingly decided that despite all the ambiguous pitfalls modern marriage presents, "Alone is ... 'alone' ... not 'alive'!"

George Furth's book has been mined for every telling comment on Bobby's unfinished "outsider" stance, till his friends' pointed comments and those of his three girl-friends seem bitingly cruel because in Davis Gaines' portrayal he takes every one of them to heart. Thus, despite the vivid portrayals of all his friends, it's what Bobby thinks about it all that matters.

And some of the staging has totally changed the impact of some scenes. While the matrons are mournfully wailing "Poor Bobby! Robert ought to have a woman!" Bobby is actually going to bed with a stewardess. Yet once cozily there, he fantasizes that his friends are around and even in the bed criticizing "... but isn't she a little bit dumb/young/tacky/old/tall" for him? Gone is the stunningly pyrotechnic sex-music to which Donna McKechnie danced so stunningly, but what's new is much more organically right.

Tia Speros need only reproduce McKechnie's machine-gun patter-song of pre-nuptual hysterics ("Perhaps I'll collapse in the apse right before you all!"), missing not a syllable while writhing on the floor. Karen Mason, however, has to lend "Here's to The Ladies Who Lunch" a viciously ironic bite that not even Elaine Stritch gave it. Her curled lip fairly drips contempt, and her pauses are magnificent.

Set Designer Loren Sherman has every stick of furniture whisking about on silent casters while Mark Morelli's photographs are projected on screens and scrims, and Bobby's huge double- portraits of those good and crazy people his married friends make big backdrops for their scenes, side-by-side by Bobby. The big Huntington space is believably a studio/studio-apartment, until Phil Monat's leafy lighting isolates a quiet nook in Central Park, or freezes Bobby's soul-searching face in a single follow-spot.

Bobby's trio of girl-friends --- Kim Lindsay as the Park- lover, Angela Lockett who is in love with New York, and Marie Danvers as the stewardess --- all have personalities here, they're not interchangeable sideshows. They carry nearly equal weight with the couples: Andy Umberger and Susan Cella as amiable battlers; John Schiappa and Terri Bibb as two still living together after divorce; William Parry and Maureen Sillman as parents trying pot; Dann Fink and Tia Speros nervously marrying after years together; and Walter Charles as the unflappable third husband of mordantly cynical Karen Mason.

For this production, Daniel Pelzig has used simplified soft-shoe patterns old married couples could handle, and yet the bounce and lilt of Sondheim's rhythms under F. Wade Russo's baton bring down the house. There is less spectacle here than there was 27 years ago, less big Broadway razzmatazz and hi-jinks, and hardly any satirical distance. Then "Company" seemed to have ripped the scab off all the old wounds of marriage and proved it kooky and ridiculous. Here all these good and crazy people have accepted one another, warts and all, and can beam with pride when good old bachelor Bobby finally, movingly admits that alone is, indeed, alone --- not alive.

Love,
===Anon.

"Company" (till 15 June)
THE HUNTINGTON THEATRE
Huntington Avenue, BOSTON
1(617)266-0800


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