Company at the Vagabond
-Theatre Review by Rachel Wooley–
Company, a musical now playing at the Vagabond Theatre in Baltimore, was written by George Furth, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. First performed on Broadway in 1970, the show has appeared in many big name theaters, including the Kennedy Center in DC in 2002. The Vagabond Players stage is a smaller venue than the show is usually performed in, but the actors make excellent use of space for the song and dance numbers, thanks to choreographer Ernie Richie and director Eric J. Potter.
Bobby, the central character (played by Vagabond veteran Tom Burns), is never short of company. His many paired-off friends constantly invite him to dinner and drinks, leaving him very little time for himself. Despite his friend’s many intrusions, Bobby insists that he loves them all. Company, after all, is “what it’s all about,” right?
Bobby’s friends in the show (all strongly cast) are five couples of varying age. They are puzzled by Bobby’s lack of marital prospects and espouse the joys of marriage and partnership as Bobby visits them each in turn, in a non-linear series of vignettes. During these meetings, Bobby’s friends continually fret over him or try to set him up with the “right girl.” Meanwhile, each couple also admits to having troubles of their own. They’re jaded, bored, or a little too worn in. As for Bobby… well, we’re not sure what his “problem” is, but he seems content (though a little fatigued) to humor his friends, meet their prospects and “play the field.”
So who’s living the dream? Someone else’s grass is always greener; it’s up to the audience to decide. Although Bobby thinks his friends are right to believe that a spouse will bring him happiness, all of their efforts (and his own) to find one seem to get him nowhere.
The play remains light-hearted throughout, though Bobby gets into some serious and sometimes awkward one-on-ones with his partnered friends during the second act. His spontaneous proposal to Amy (played by the adorable Molly Doyle), who’s just told her fiancé, Paul, that she doesn’t love him enough to go through with the marriage ceremony, is earnest though misguided. “They’ll leave us alone,” Bobby insists, but his pleas make Amy realize that she doesn’t just want to settle for anyone. If she’s going to marry someone, it’s going to be Paul.
The proposition from Peter (David Minges) is the first – and perhaps only – overt suggestion that Bobby might be gay. During the conversation, both men admit to past homosexual encounters, but the scene ends with Bobby laughing off Peter’s advances as a joke. The script itself is ambiguous, and it seems the director has made a choice to downplay questions about Bobby’s sexuality. Nevertheless, audiences observe that there’s no real chemistry between Bobby and any of the three girls he’s dating either.
This being a musical, many of the characters’ complicated feelings which can’t be spoken aloud are instead expressed in song. The singers in this performance or, rather the actors who also sing, are marvelous. Tom Burns is strong as both the lead and as a singer; the entire cast harmonizes well together, especially the three girlfriends in their number. Likewise, Molly Doyle’s rendition of “Getting Married Today” – a fast-paced lyrical number performed with frazzled nervousness as she contemplates her impending wedding, is hilarious. Sarah Ford Gorman, who plays Marta, one of Bobby’s girlfriends, also gives a brilliant performance in her song, “Another Hundred People” as well as in her scenes with Bobby.
The set design, too, is lovely. Large pre-9/11 panoramas of New York City make up the back walls and serve as either a window view or artwork, depending on the setting (which range from friends’ apartments to a club) in each scene.
Musicals aren’t for everyone, but Company is unique, combining talented acting, with musical intrigue. The show runs through November 17, 2013, with performances Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Treat your partner or drop in solo; the cozy theatre and lively entertainment leave no one feeling lonely!
Post Photo Courtesy of Ken Stanek