December 14, 2021
Excited by the notion of Broadway opening up again, I made one of those NYC mistakes and walked into the wrong theater. Expecting to see Thoughts of a Colored Man at the John Golden Theatre, I mistakenly sprinted into the Bernard Jacobs Theatre right next door where the legendary Stephen Sondheim's musical Company (with book by George Furth), was playing to an ample house of Sondheim enthusiasts!
Although it took a little time to readjust, I ended up in very good company.
It was birthday time! On her 35th birthday, Bobbie's (Katrina Lenk) friends gathered to celebrate the event and question her singlehood. How could a woman be 35 and not yet settled; not married?
Navigating the vagaries of a single life, Bobbie's friends, many of them couples, continually questioned her skittishness. Albeit a social construct -- marrying or partnering -- suggests satisfaction with life. But not so fast.....
Plucked from her radiant turn in The Band's Visit, Lenk assumed the role in Company originally inhabited by a man. Did this make a difference? In a way no, because women-- more often than men -- are questioned about their choice to be single. Women work against a biological clock and friends still fear more for a woman living alone than a man. Before his recent passing, Stephen Sondheim blessed this gender and racial swapping cast and in most cases, the performers were totally believable.
Of course, one of Broadway's leading stars, Patti LuPone (Joanne) savored the delicious role of the wealthy woman, whose tarnished innocence still intrigues her devoted husband. Acidly commenting on life, just about every line she spoke spit out arsenals of gritty, arch wit aimed at sabotaging others in subtle and not so subtle ways. Legs swinging like a wicked child on a chair, the boozed up LuPone exalted in the song "Women Who Lunch" made famous by another icon Elains Stritch.
Broken into skits, Company lunged back and forth between couples trying to convince Jane of the glories of married, or partnered life. Yet, in the process, each couple revealed interpersonal complications that might, or might not be insurmountable.
Questioning his decision to marry his partner Jaime (Matt Doyle) sails into "I'm Not Getting Married Today"-- the famous tongue twisting, verbal marathon that sprints through the lyrics at the speed of a blaring police car. Contextually, nothing is lost in the translation from a woman questioning her marriage and a man triggered by his impending nuptials to another man.
Most of the cast is up to Sondheim's vocal standards, yet Bobbie, who was swell in The Band's Visit does not move comfortably through Sondheim's musical range. A cat-like quiet and litheness marks Jane's actions. Her wide set eyes constantly question and gauge the veracity of friends' situations and the reality of relationships versus the imagined.
Bobbie's cherry red pantsuit popped against Bunnie Christie's malleable, whimsical sets. The score remains memorable, perhaps maybe too memorable considering the people behind me insisted on singing along...nothing I ever thought would happen at a Sondheim musical... then again, who imagined the past two years?
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis