Regional Reviews: Boston
This Company, in a sleek staging from director Spiros Veloudos, is the most entertaining night I've had at the Lyric Stage. Veloudos pulls together a high-power eight-piece band (led by Catherine Stornetta) and a wonderful ensemble with many familiar Boston faces. Kerri Wilson and Davron S. Monroe are delightfully eccentric as the karate-competing Sarah and Harry, who swipe brownies and shots of bourbon behind each other's backs. Teresa Winner Blume is comic gold as the confessed square Jenny, bravely smoking a joint with Bobby and her husband David (a loving Todd Yard), but not really enjoying it. As reluctant bride Amy, Erica Spyres handles the mile-a-minute patter song "Getting Married Today" with searing dryness, and she makes Amy's (temporary) wedding-day cold feet a symptom of her own fragility. Leigh Barrett's urban sophisticate Joanne uses the lacerating "The Ladies Who Lunch" to explore her own bruised ego, depressed that she's become one of "the girls who just watch." From actor to actor, it's clear in this staging how uncertain Bobby's friends are about being married. Is it really worth it on the other side of the altar?
More than ever, Bobby feels like an outsider in his friends' lives, someone passing through but not really engaging. John Ambrosino projects a very appealing blankness as Bobby, and it keeps him constantly fascinating. You can see why his friends invite him over for a drink: that sharp, dry wit; his unthreatening good looks. Yet Ambrosino's Bobby always manages to keep a safe, ironic distance from the company he's around. You can't tell if he's interested or bored by other people. He's directed to stare out toward the audience whenever Sondheim's songs interrupt to comment on a scene ("You Could Drive a Person Crazy," for example, energetically performed by Carla Martinez, Maria LaRossa, and Adrianne Hick).
In his solo songs, "Someone Is Waiting" and "Marry Me a Little," Ambrosino gives us glimpses that his Bobby wrestles with needing something more. These musical monologues feel like Bobby toying with opening up, but still holding tightly to his outward cool. My only quibble is when he gets to "Being Alive," Bobby's first real understanding that he does need someone. In Ambrosino's hands, this pivotal moment feels like a halting next step more than a real transformation. It's very well sung, but the actor doesn't fully break free from the carefully controlled Bobby he's played all night.
This Bobby seems like a man who always swipes right on Tinder. An occasional cell phone, however, is the only real reminder the production takes place in the present. It's easy to see why Veloudos wants to make Company contemporary. But Furth's script and Sondheim's lyrics feel tethered to their original 1970s setting. Beyond old-fashioned references to answering services and vodka stingers, current-day attitudes about marriage have shifted. The prevailing perspective of Bobby's friends is that urban professionals should be married at their age, that it's the only logical form of long-term commitment. "Marriage may be where it's been, but it's not where it's at," reads one Sondheim lyric, and the sentiment feels relevant today. Time period aside, what makes the Lyric production illuminating is its apparent ambivalence about getting hitched. Maybe the institution isn't right for everyone (or anyone?). What Bobby needs more is to connect.
Company is presented by The Lyric Stage Company of Boston through October 9, 2016, at 140 Clarendon Street, Boston, MA. Tickets are $25-78 and can be purchased at lyricstage.com, by phone at (617) 585-5678, or in person at the Lyric Stage box office.