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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Company

Also see Susan's reviews of Becky Shaw and Stupid Fucking Bird


Matthew Scott
Since Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's 1970 musical Company primarily concerns the interactions between husbands and wives, director Eric Schaeffer had the inspiration to cast married couples in his production for Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia. It may seem like a gimmick, but Schaeffer and his performers have created a solid version of a work that can now be considered a classic.

Revolutionary in its time, Company fragments time into individual scenes and follows a through-line of ideas rather than plot. (The 1970s works by Sondheim and his primary collaborator, producer-director Harold Prince, became known as "concept musicals.") In this case, the pivotal figure is Robert (Matthew Scott), comfortably unmarried at 35, and the five married couples who consider him their best friend.

In the musical's original time period (think of Mad Men, for example), couples were expected to marry young and a person who remained unmarried at 35 was an anomaly. People marry later these days, but the idea of a person shying away from commitment is as relevant as ever.

Interestingly, Schaeffer has chosen a monochrome look for the production: Daniel Conway's set is all aluminum and glass panels, with black-and-white photos depicting New York scenes and images of the characters, and Frank Labovitz has costumed everyone in white and soft shades of gray. (Scott stands apart with a blue shirt.) The individual performers seem to bridge several eras in their appearance, from Tracy Lynn Olivera's late-1960s teased bouffant hairdo to an unrecognizable Carolyn Cole in contemporary leggings and tunic.

The women get the larger moments here, and they deliver. As Amy, a bride on the verge of a nervous breakdown, Erin Weaver seems too reserved at first, but her shell shatters delightfully as she tears into "Getting Married Today." Madeline Botteri charms as a flight attendant who, despite thinking very hard, can't quite grasp what's going on around her. Olivera gets to writhe on the floor as she fantasizes about the fattening food she can't eat. And Sherri L. Edelen gives "The Ladies Who Lunch" an acerbic, uncompromising delivery.

Matthew Gardiner's choreography makes the most of the small MAX Theatre stage. Jon Kalbfleisch conducts just eight other musicians, but they benefit from using Jonathan Tunick's original orchestrations.

Signature Theatre
Company
May 21st - June 30th
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by George Furth
Robert: Matthew Scott
Sarah: Tracy Lynn Olivera
Harry: Evan Casey
Susan: Sandy Bainum
Peter: Bobby Smith
Jenny: Erin Driscoll
David: James Gardiner
Amy: Erin Weaver
Paul: Paul Scanlan
Joanne: Sherri L. Edelen
Larry: Thomas Adrian Simpson
Marta: Carolyn Cole
April: Madeline Botteri
Kathy: Jamie Eacker
Directed by Eric Schaeffer
Choreographed by Matthew Gardiner
Musical direction by Jon Kalbfleisch
MAX Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-820-9771 or 1-800-955-5566 or www.signature-theatre.org


Photo: Scott Suchman


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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