Community Theatre Review: COMPANY at Players Club of Swarthmore

Some Broadway shows age better than others, but Stephen Sondheim’s Company in the hands of

Eric Carter-Thompson (Bobby) and the cast of COMPANY.

director/choreographer Eddie Donlevie demonstrates that some shows can have a reimagining even forty-nine years later and gain new relevance in the offering.  Company came to Broadway in 1970 with Sondheim’s hip, clever lyrics and George Furth’s insightful book.  It garnered a then record breaking fourteen Tony nominations winning six including Best Musical, Best Book, Best Music, and Best Lyrics.

In 1970 falling in love with “the one” and getting married was a norm, but in 2019 there are more acceptable alternatives. Although Donlevie covers the story nicely, he also has his cast approach things from a modern perspective. It is no longer a piece of history, but rather a living, breathing piece of theater.

Donlevie cheats like all good directors and chooses a cast that makes his job much easier.

Eric Carter-Thompson as Bobby, the man everyone tries to fix up, is brilliant.  He has an incredible singing voice and a very relaxed, nuanced delivery.  He is clearly an observer trying to decide whether to get in the game.  Each of the four couples has their scene with Bobby in which they try and state their case for or against marriage.  Through those scenes the cast explores the vulnerabilities of marriage as well as uniqueness that each person brings to a relationship.

In fairness to the actors, each scene is not written equally well.  They all do a great job mining the best from the script, but some stand out through no fault of the director or actors. The fight scene between Sarah (Sophie Hirsch) and Harry (Matthew Prince) stands out because of Prince’s brio and Hirsch’s passive aggressiveness.  Bobby gets to evaluate the delusions of marriage, and Carter-Thompson does so with looks and body language.

 

Laura Barron as Amy.

Amy and Paul’s wedding stands out both because of Laura Baron’s peripatetically neurotic Amy, but also because of Jonathan V. Polanco’s reasoned response to his fiancée’s pure energy.  Bobby is noticing that there are things about each relationship and each woman that he loves, but there are also limitations in each.  This is further emphasized in Joanne (Amy Walton) and Larry (Bert Zug), the “older couple.”  He sees the ghost of futures yet to be.  Walton does an intense version of “The Ladies Who Lunch,” a sad cry for help from a woman who acts like she has everything under control.  The other couples Susan (Angela Dalecki) and Peter (David Gregory) as well as Jenny (Katie Elizabeth Hughes) and David (Anthony Sinigaglio) distinguish themselves throughout the show in the ensemble numbers.

 

Meg Cranney (April), Ali Caiazzo (Marta), and Carly Carman (Kathy) play the girlfriends.

The three “single” contestants for the “Bobby” prize are Marta (Ali Caiazzo), Kathy (Carly Carman) and April (Meg Cranney).  They represent different qualities in women that Bobby encounters.  I especially enjoyed April’s “Barcelona” number.  Cranney made the character’s manipulation and vulnerability coexist in a touching scene.  Director Donlevie gives each her moment as a representative of what is out there for Bobby.

Bobby’s final reflection is “Being Alive” which Carter-Thompson “owns.”  It is one of those moments when the right singer is singing the right song.  He moves the audience as well as himself.  The ensemble numbers are very strong especially “Side by Side” where Donlevie wisely keeps the moves in the comfort zone of the performers.

Technically the show will hopefully find its ‘sweet spot.”  The music overpowered the performers.  Music Director Pat D”Amato does a great job with the actors voices but needs to pull his orchestra back a bit.  This was probably exacerbated by Derek Jay Ross’s set design.  The design strikes the right artistic chord, but having the actors singing right in front of the orchestra contributes to the sound problem.  The lighting design had some choices that worked counter to the number.  People were lit doing nothing and not lit while singing. Perhaps this was due to delayed cues. Again, these will certainly be amended for the final two weeks of the show.  The costume crew (Betsy Berwick, Reba Ferdman, Laura Barron, and Robin Abate) did a wonderful job capturing time and place without stereotyping.  This further contributed to Donlevie’s reimagined production.

Company runs until January 19th.  For tickets go to www.pcstheatre.org.

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