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Open: 10/20/12- Close: 11/11/12 Company
Reviewed for TheaterOnline.com By: Brett Epstein

  

We’ve all got that friend.  Or maybe you are that friend.  The single one, the one that tags along, the third wheel.  These attributes may have negative connotations but don’t pity Bobby, the bachelor at the heart of Company.  He’s handsome, he’s charismatic and he gets around with everyone from a flight attendant to a hipster.

The show follows Bobby, 35, unmarried and seemingly the last male alive to fit that bill – at least in his circle of friends.  A modern dramatic comedy, Company features a horde of thirtysomethings with different foibles and flaws that are mostly all relatable or alluring in some way.  This is a testament to the strong book by George Furth and music by Stephen Sondheim that is both heartfelt (“Being Alive”) and funny (“Getting Married Today”).

Amidst his friends, Bobby is not a mopey wet blanket.  That’s what makes Company so refreshing.  These people genuinely enjoy his company and he’s actively seeking a love life.  In the clever and cute little vignettes Furth has constructed, this is a fun group to hang with for a few hours.

Bringing the text, the music and the characters unreservedly to life requires clear, thoughtful direction and an analysis of Company’s inhabitants.  There are numerous facets that can be highlighted or played up or explored, both for dramatic and comedic effect.  The Gallery Players’ production lacks that clarity.  Characters seem general instead of specific, scenework is broad instead of structured.  The choreography, the direction, even the lighting, always feels one or two steps away from being polished, from being energized, from being precise, from popping, from making sense and most noticeably… from being truthful.  As there is ostensibly no vision, each actor is left in his own world.  But in an ensemble piece like this, there’s got to be a constant developing of relationships, a continuous checking in with each other, and tons and tons more love – love between these people who, as scripted, love each other.  The blocking enhances the disconnect (between them and them, between us and them) because many scenes are so far upstage or crammed into stage left/stage right corners.  And although the choreography is cute at times, the stage pictures end up being clunky and clumsy.  There’s always someone oddly out of line, or too far out of the semi-circle, or blocking another actor, or arriving in the stage picture after everyone else.

  

The acting lacks an honest “I’m actually speaking to someone and want something from them” quality.  Outside of the dialogue, there is minimal natural affection shown amongst the actors that made me think “Yes, they’re married” or “Yes, they’re sleeping together” or “Yes, they know each other, deeply.” 

As Robert, David Schoonover vulnerably renders “Being Alive” with a simple, reflective disposition.  It's a beautiful song and Schoonover certainly does it justice.  But prior to this his Bobby is so docile, so reserved, so cool that he precariously approaches ‘lazy.’  Other interpretations are highly theatrical, like Debra Carozza’s Sarah, Cindy Marchionda’s Joanne and Diana Rose Becker’s April.  These actresses dish out superb diction but when Sarah is announced as “cool” and April as “dumb and boring,” those were the last words I would’ve used to describe them.  Thom Christensen and Katie Johannigman are successful in bringing a relaxed, under-the-radar presence to the stage while Sarah Stevens’ Amy should’ve exploded but only comes off semi-neurotic.  Of the ensemble Chris Caron strikes the most impressive note, effectively playing Paul as a sweet guy sincerely invested in his engagement to Amy and his friendship with Bobby.

The high points are “Side by Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You,” which has excellent choreography - although it features perhaps the most distracting use of a cigarette of all-time - and “Poor Baby,” a hilarious number where all the women stay up thinking of Bobby while their husbands attempt to sleep.  But for a musical about love, marriage, dating and relationships, this version comes up short in two vital departments: sex appeal (is it just me or why are Bobby and April fully clothed in a bedroom scene?) and chemistry.  Too many actors are presentational, playing their characters as so into themselves that they forgot to connect with their onstage Company.

www.galleryplayers.com for tickets and info.


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Venue:
Gallery Players : 199 14th St. (bt 4th and 5th Aves.)