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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Signature Theatre's 'Company' is mixed

Company's group dancing is tops at Signature Theatre in Arlington/Scott Suchman

If you want to discourage anyone from getting married, Company is the play to see. I went expecting to hear more humor than reality.

The ending of this musical, now on stage at Signature Theatre in Arlington, is not a “happy" one.  Depending upon which way you lean, it's either "for" or "against" marriage, and it's left to the viewer to decide.  Throughout the presentation, however, most of the characters "suffer" marriage and all its pitfalls and are miserable.  (Hmmm, maybe an opportunity to appreciate your own relationship and strive to make it better?)

The music is routine and forgettable.

Company did earn six Tonys when it was nominated for 14 in 1971 (a record), so somebody up there must like it, but it is the composition, written by the notable
Stephen Sondheim (b. 1930) who based it on George Furth's book, which is mediocre. Who cares in 2013 what marriage is for a bunch of provincial New York dilettantes?

April (Madeline Botteri) and Bobby (Matthew Scott) up in the swing/Scott Suchman

Given the script, Signature's director, Eric Schaeffer, does an admirable job, yet the production lacks soaring flash and dash.   

"Bobby," or "Robert," acted and sung passably by Matthew Scott, is a 35-year-old bachelor who surrounds himself not with other singles, but with five married couples who, natch, try to get him to jump on their loveless boats and get married.  (Misery loves company.) Why would Bobby want to hang out with them? Why would anyone?

Bobby has three girlfriends, about par for today's course, and is smitten by none. Marta (Carolyn Cole), by looks and appearance seems out of sync with the other two (Jamie Eacker, also dance captain, and Madeline Botteri), and all three women deliver some of the strongest performances of the production, especially Botteri who plays the stereotypical air brain airline hostess whose bed romp with Bobby was about the best I've seen on stage. 

The three girlfriends, from left, Marta (Carolyn Cole), Kathy (Jamie Eacker), and April (Madeline Botteri)/Scott Suchman

The costuming (Frank Labovitz) is an excellent fit with the ordinary which mirror the show's general malaise.  Everyone is dressed up in muted grey and white or bone, except for Bobby in a dark blue shirt.  For the striking dance numbers (Matthew Gardiner), the apparel is classy. (One gratuitous scene was a female solo dance number which left me confounded as to its purpose.)

The set's frame (Daniel Conway) remains stationary, but that is immaterial since frequent scene changes of furniture and lighting shifts (Chris Lee) combine to deliver an abstract stage filled with triangles, shadows, and glorious cool mood lighting, presenting theatregoers with a viewpoint of watching a light show while perched on a refrigerator shelf or on a spaceship.  It's a rambunctious ride with large, changing photographs high on the backdrop to distract and create confusion. 
A nine-piece orchestra under the direction of Jon Kalbfleisch complements the production nicely without overpowering any voices. Matt Rowe's sound is inconspicuous, the best kind.

The production's highlights belong to the excellent group choreography, and the vignettes acted by Erin Weaver as Amy and Erin Driscoll as Jenny.  Women rule this show.  And three of the couples are really married:  Joanne (Sherri Edelen) is married to Larry (Thomas Adrian Simpson), Sarah (Tracy Lynn Olivera) is married to Harry (Evan Casey), and Jenny is married to David (James Gardiner).
Will she (Erin Weaver as Amy) or won't she? Marry Paul (Paul Scanlan) in Company/Scott Suchman

This production is not for the young, but for comfortably married old folks, i.e. "baby boomers" (certainly for not anyone considering d-i-v-o-r-c-e!) and theatre-lovers, too, especially in halls that are as seductive as Signature’s. 

Two years ago Sondheim’s Follies left the Kennedy Center after a month’s run,  bound for New York, so why can’t this go to New York, too?  It’s certainly better than Follies. 

What:  Company

When:  Now through June 30 every night with weekend matinees, too.  Dark on Mondays.

Where:  Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, Virginia 22206

How much:  From $30.  
Click here for tickets.

Metro station: Pentagon and then, a short bus ride from there.  Use Metro's Trip Planner to plan a route.

Free parking:  At two nearby garages.  Check here. 

For more information: 703-820-9771 or email

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