Friday, March 02, 2007

Company (The SOB Review)

Company (The SOB Review) - Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York, NY

*** (out of ****)

Dear Mr. John Doyle:

From the bottom of my heart, I apologize.

I'm truly sorry for suggesting that your inventive theatrical device in which your actors double as musicians has already become excessive even before I saw Company, your latest Broadway revival of a Stephen Sondheim musical.

Well, I finally saw your production, which, by the way, has some of my favorite Sondheim tunes, and I can tell you I was mesmerized. Your show deserves a much larger audience than it's currently attracting.

Bobby, of course, is Company's pivotal player -- literally and figuratively -- in a series of vignettes with the people in his life. Some of the chapters focus on his inability to commit to any one of his trio of girlfriends. Others center on Bobby's coupled friends, each of whom is either married, about to be married or soon to be divorced. While everyone expresses their desire for Bobby to settle down, George Furth's book explores how true emotions for Bobby actually range from envy by the men to personal lust from the women.

I was struck by the inventive and symbolic ways you isolate Bobby, played by a breathtakingly real Raúl Esparza, who sings angelically. Even the elegant simplicity of David Gallo's set design with its ingenious ice cube boxes underscores the cold reality of Bobby's isolation. Nowhere is the irony of that isolation emphasized better than in the "Side By Side By Side" number where you strike up your merry band of actor/musicians as they sing "What Would We Do Without You?" even though the beautiful music about Bobby specifically excludes him.

While many of your actors are accomplished musicians first, as evidenced via Mary Mitchell Campbell's plucky orchestrations, they create an astonishingly cohesive ensemble. Unfortunately, the one sour note comes from an unlikely source: Barbara Walsh, who in her failed effort to channel Elaine Stritch's landmark performance as Joanne, ends up just sounding flat. We know she's capable of more, but in this case, less is simply less.

Fortunately, before she can bring down the entire production, Esparza's Bobby comes to a cathartic realization empowering him to soar to spine-tingling new musical heights. While finally taking a seat at the piano, he's ready to join the human race in a way he's never before experienced. Ultimately, Esparza's finely calibrated performance helps melt his way into my heart.

What has lingered in the aftermath of seeing Company is the gnawing question of whether we can ever really measure up in the relationship department. But even more importantly, how can we possibly know if we don't ever allow ourselves the chance to be loved in the first place.

So thank you, John Doyle. And here's to you, your Company and the ladies who lunch -- I just hope that they at least take in a matinee of your show.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Is It Just Me, Or...(Part II) (February 21, 2007)
Did Critics Find Doyle's Latest Revival In Good Company? (November 30, 2006)
Another Company Opens For Business Tonight On Broadway (November 29, 2006)
Apple Tree In Good Company Among SOB Readers (November 6, 2006)

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At 06 March, 2007, Blogger Isn't it rich...? said...

lol. I can't wait to see this one. Great review, Steve!

At 06 March, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I'm confounded by the low capacities its been attracting. It really deserves a wider audience.


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