|The Concord Journal|
|Laudable performances not enough to save 'Company'|
|By John Butman|
I saw "Company" in its premiere engagement on Broadway in 1970, and it has lingered in my mind as a particularly bland piece of theatre.
The music is complex and occasionally catchy without being pleasing. The characters are sharply drawn without being affecting. It is current, or was then, but not really hip. Above all, I recall the lead character, Robert - played then by Larry Kert - as being virtually a cipher.
Ditto, The Concord Players production of "Company." Despite some good performances and some lively, appealing numbers, I left the theatre feeling pretty much as I had entered it - Ungripped by any strong emotion, either positive or negative.
Two major problems stand out. First, despite being 15 years old, the subject matter is marriage and male-female relationships, and most of what transpires could be happening today. However, Lora Chase, the director and choreographer, has chosen to treat the play as if it were a period piece by exaggerating the '70s characterizations and costuming. This makes the already rather obvious points even more blatant and less emotionally relevant today.
The second problem is inherent in the play, and that is the character of Robert. He's single, attractive, available, and has plenty of opportunity but is nevertheless, unmarried and likely to remain so. The action revolves around his relationships with five married couple (all friends) and three single women.
Although Robert's situation is presented as the central issue of the musical, we get no clues as to why he is the way he is - is he a cad. Is he gay, is he confused? The result is that we couldn't care less.
Bob Reilly, as Robert, has a fine singing voice, skillful timing and an engaging stage presence. In his final number in particular, "Being Alive," he comes very close to rescuing Robert, and the play, from its aloofness. But not quite. There just ins't enough juice in the character or incident in the action to bring him fully to life.
As for the rest of the ensemble cast (there is no chorus or dance corps,) the women are the most animated, believable and fun. Adele Keohan stands out as Jenny, a bubbly, good-hearted wife in a wonderfully restrivtive violet mini-dress.
In the funniest scene in the play, she tries marijuana for the first time and contends - while alternately giggling uncontrollably and losing her memory - that she doesn't feel a thing. Keohan also has a lovely voice, which she displays to great effect in the number "Getting Married Today."
The catchiest number of the evening features Robert's three girlfriends, Marta, Kathy and April. They sing and dance "You Could Drive A Person Crazy" with energy, good humor and sparkle. Marta, as played by Joan Storry, has a straight-talking, down-to-earth quality that contrasts effectively with Kirsten Gould's fluffy Kathy and Kathy Grey's limp and innocuous (but amusingly self-aware) stewardess, April.
Marta's big number, "Another Hundred People," is one that seems dated - a bitter observation of the cattle-drive quality of life in the big city. It sounds more pretentious than insightful today.
In other roles, James and Norma O'Brien, playing husband and wife Sarah and Harry, do some lively livingroom tussling. She in livid lime-green capri pants and he in baggy boxers (did we have printed boxers in 2970s?) effectively throw the self-indulgent, self-obsessed '70s couple into high relief.
Mary O'Donnell as Amy and Chuck Walsh as Paul shine in "Getting Married Today," with Mary bustling about trying to convicne her wedding guests to disperse and they solemnly carrying on with the ceremony.
Leslye Workman, Kevin Dougherty, Anne Butman (no relation,) Frank Kaplan and David Gould (also funny in the marijuana scene) all perform solidly in what amounts to a chorus of couples, Roberts's friends. The singing is of high quality, both in the solos and ensemble pieces. The stage movement (it can't really be called dancing) however, comes off as a bit halfhearted.
The singers are amplified for the first time at 51 Walden in a long time and, despite an intermittent buzz that needs to be smoked out, the amplification helps the audibility and understandability a great deal. Another new wrinkle is the use of synthesizers in the orchestra which works well in a contemporary musical like this one.
The set has some eccentricities that distracted my attention such as a permanently painted fireplace, a couple of ill-fitting flaps that concealed a cranky daybed, and a painted New York City scrim with the legend "DO NOT ENTER HIS LANE," Whether the ommission of the "T" is meant as a suggestion of panorama, or as an editorial comment on the message of the play, I felt about it as I did about the entire evening: ambivalent.