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Phone rings, door chimes, in comes “Company”

Published: March 20, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.


Company Photo Gallery

<i>PHOTO BY Yuan Yao/The Hoot</i>

PHOTO BY Yuan Yao/The Hoot

Company. The word alone is enough to drive a person up a wall, at least when it comes to the kind of company that outlasts its welcome. But company takes many forms, and this show explores many of them.

The show centers around Bobby and the relationships he has with his friends, mostly married couples, and his three on-again-off-again girlfriends, Marta, Kathy, and April. At 35, Bobby is still single and, while his friends love him anyhow, all wonder when (if at all) he will settle down. Bobby, though, has been reluctant to commit to anyone because he’s been waiting for the perfect girl – a woman with all the best qualities of his married female friends. Through a series of vignettes connected to each other around the framework of a birthday party they are holding for him, we see Bobby interact with each of the couples that make up “those good and crazy people, [his] married friends” and with each of his three girlfriends. Each scene depicts the trials and tribulations, the good and the bad, of marriage through the couples’ varied relationships.

This concept musical is often hard to put across well due to its lack of a plot driven narrative arc and its complex score, and director Justin Becker ’09 was only partly up to the challenge, putting together a cohesive production based around a concept all his own. Known in Brandeis’ theater circles for his strong direction of “The Last Five Years” and “Cabaret,” both of which are like “Company” in that they have non-traditional structures, Becker still shows some of the spark that has come to be expected. but this is certainly his most lackluster production to date. While his concept of loneliness in a big, scary world was an interesting one, there was nothing much to draw the audience into these characters’ lives or care about what happened to them. Additionally, the choreography seemed overly showy and out of place in a musical that is as low key as this one. While the moves seen here might have looked fine in a big, splashy Broadway spectacle, they simply did not belong here.

That being said, Becker was able to draw out many fine performances from his cast – some of the best performances seen on any Brandeis stage in recent memory. One of the standout stars of this production was Ashley Sauerhof ’09 as Marta, the most neurotic of Bobby’s girlfriends, but also the most loveable. Sauerhof’s obviously large personality and even larger heart were clearly on display throughout her entire performance, not to mention her talent as a singer. Possibly her most endearing trait, and the one that was most useful to her in this performance, though, was her sharp comic timing. When, as Marta, she talks about why she loves the city and how to tell true New Yorkers from the out-of-towners, it became clear that Sauerhof will always have a career to fall back on that will keep her wealthy for the rest of her life – making people laugh.

Another star performance in this show came from Gavi Young ’09 as Joanne, an older, alcoholic friend of Bobby’s who’s been married three times and is arguably the most brutally honest person in Bobby’s life. For starters, Young has the strongest stage presence of any actress at Brandeis and, I would argue, of any actress her age currently working in the business. Before she walks on stage to play her part, it is immediately clear that she’s coming and magic can be expected ,which she never fails to provide. When she opens her mouth to sing, though, the real magic happens. Hearing her powerful, full, honey-coated voice has the power to cast her audience under her spell and willingly follow her lead.

Other performances of note came from Ariella Katz ’09, whose cuteness was in abundance and was put to good use, and Jen Faber, ’09 whose performance of “Getting Married Today” (a song which rivals “Flight of the Bumblebee” in required speed of delivery) was better than that of many professional actresses with much more experience than she.

As for the design elements of the show, the most impressive piece was the set. Going along with the directorial concept of Bobby auditioning couples for his model of a perfect marriage, Bryan Prywes’ ’11 set was not only functional for the needs of the concept and those of the show, but also visually gorgeous. The costumes also worked relatively well with the exception that too many hats got in the way of the ability to see the actors’ faces. Katherine Teeter’s ’12 lighting design, her first, was the most middle of the road of the design elements. While clearly an early work in this designer’s cannon, there is definitely reason to believe that there is a future for Teeter should she decide to pursue this path further, as long as she has good guidance along the way. And guidance from our friends may be all the company we need in this world.

“Company”: Book by George Furth, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; directed and choreographed by Justin Becker; music direction by Ben Oehlkers; orchestrations by Katya Dreyer-Oren; sets by Bryan Prywes; costumes by Justin Becker; lights by Katherine Teeter; sound design by Dan Lincoln; stage management by Lisa Schwartz.

Produced by Lily Nagy-Deak and Tympanium Euphorium at the Shapiro Theater, 415 South Street, Waltham MA 02453. March 12th through March 15th, 2009. Running time: 2 hours, 45 minutes.