As one of the smartest musicals ever conceived, Company has proved irresistible to many community and regional theaters despite its challenges. The quotable script and superb score weigh every pro and con of getting married, or not-a compelling issue today just as it was when the show premiered at the height of the sexual revolution in 1970. The play also provides every one of its 14 characters with at least one good acting scene and one good song.
Still, it's not an easy show to produce. Sondheim's arduous melodies can confound even the most proficient singers. And, in the hands of unseasoned actors who don't havetheir comic timing down pat, the vignettes between musical numbers (which were originally one-act plays by Furth) can drag. This pacing pitfall sporadically plagued the St. Bart's Players' production, but the troupe-one of Manhattan's few community theaters-overall put forth a decent effort. The onstage talent was serviceable to good; the biggest blunders came from the technical staff, in the form of poor lighting and staging.
The appealing albeit unremarkable Sean Lough had the central role of Bobby, a bachelor with three girlfriends and a stable of married friends never at a loss for advice on relationships. Among those playing Bobby's married friends, Robert Martz had a nice everyman quality about him; RoseMarie Guaglieri impressed with her comic antics; and Melissa Broder executed her role with cuteness and charm, as did Brad Negbaur. Although Lesley Berry looked too young and had to try too hard, she carried off the sardonic "Ladies Who Lunch" (made famous by Elaine Stritch, whom Berry obviously borrowed from) well. Kristy Holbrook's awkward gestures and questionable choice of expressions were distracting.
Scenic designer Mary Houston added a clever touch to the two-tiered set typically created for Company: the lower level resembled a subway train, which in the show is a metaphor for how people go in and out of one another's lives. However, Maog should have been more careful about the subway poles obstructing views of the actors and he should have positioned Holbrook on the subway for all of "Another Hundred People" (the song that mentions the subway). Once Holbrook moved to the lower level midway through the song, she should have sat farther downstage and always sung to the audience, not to the wings. The scene that followed was also poorly staged: Lough sat on a platform with his legs hanging over the edge while Holbrook stood on the platform while they conversed. They were, presumably, outdoors, but where in Manhattan was this supposed to take place?
There was also some uninspired choreography, as when the ensemble paraded in a circle and bobbed their heads to the side. The number "You Could Drive a Person Crazy" had too much movement and gesturing, while "Barcelona" didn't have enough--the actors sat or lay in bed throughout the song when the lyrics suggest they should be doing more. As for the lighting, the fadeout instead of blackout at the end of each act diminshed the emotional impact, and there didn't seem to be enough light on the performers in several scenes.
(Also featuring Lisa B. Yelon, Jill Conklin, John Wilson, Amy Daley, Dan Grinko, Robert Berger, and Elizabeth Ristich. Costumes, Cynthia August; Lighting, Richard Tatum; Musical Director, Jeremy Fenn-Smith.)
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Copyright 1998 Adrienne Onofri