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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
COMPANY
at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York

MIND GAMES
By Peter Filichia

  (L. to R.) Elizabeth Stanley, Kelly Jeanne Grant, Angel Desai, and Raul Esparza (background)/Photo: Paul Kolnik

Oh, the drums go bang, and the cymbals clang, and the horns they blaze away. The actors make sure of that at the Barrymore Theatre, where they act, sing, dance AND play instruments for Stephen Sondheim and George Furth 's landmark 1970 musical,Company.

John Doyle, who won a Tony for his direction of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, last season, once again does away  with the orchestra pit, not to mention the orchestra. By having the actors quadruple as his musical, he's found a great way to economize. Sweeney ran 11 months, which wouldn't have happened if genuine musicians and actors had to be paid.

But if this is the sacrifice one must make to have a new production of Company on Broadway, so be it. Here's a musical that still packs a wallop 36 years after its debut, because it deals with one of society's hottest buttons, an issue that hasn't dated at all: To marry or not to marry?

There are times when our hero  Robert (Raul Esparza) thinks he might like to tie the knot. Surely there are candidates out there: April (Elizabeth Stanley), the flighty flight attendant. Kathy (Kelly Jeanne Grant), who takes another offer of marriage as soon as she can. Marta (Angel Desai), who'll do anything to seem sophisticated.

And yet the one to whom Robert proposes is Amy (Heather Lewis) on the morning when she's supposed to wed Paul (Robert Cunningham) - though, to be fair, she is staunchly swearing she's "not getting married today" (in the production's most hilariously entertaining sequence.) But soon she's heading to the altar as if she's going to the guillotine.

That leaves Robert to visit "those good and crazy people, my married friends." They're Harry (Keith Buterbaugh) and Sarah (Kristin Huffman), who actually get into a karate match while Robert must watch helplessly. Joanne (Barbara Walsh) and Larry (Bruce Sabath), each without the energy to leave each other, what with all the divorces they've independently endured. And last but hardly least, Susan (Amy Justman) and Peter (Matt Castle ), who decide to divorce - but as soon as they do, they continue to live with each other, and feel better about themselves.

The cast is uniformly excellent, with Esparza pouring heart, soul, and lungs into his plea of "Being Alive," which he expects marriage would make him feel. This, despite all the wedded men cueing him that they're "Sorry/Grateful" they tied the knot around their necks.

Too bad 13 on-stage musicians can't make for that thrilling Broadway sound of yesteryear. But the scenes crackle, and John Doyle shows that, gimmick or no gimmick, he's one hell of a director.

 


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