Sammi Elefant ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
“Bobby,” “Bob,” “Robby,” and “Rob-o” are only a few of the many nicknames given to leading man Robert (Dave Carney) in Company. The musical comedy by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth is mounted as Moonbox Productions first large-scale musical at the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion.
Each time a variation on Robert sounded, the name iterated the central theme of the play: the challenge of holding onto meaningful relationships in an increasingly detached society. Company doesn’t progress over a period of a time, but rather within a single instant in Robert’s mind—perhaps on his shrink’s couch or perhaps in the moment that he walks into his 35th birthday party. Over the course of the play, the audience learns through Robert’s commentary about his married friends, his three non-exclusive girlfriends, and himself.
Despite the engaging and dynamic dialogue the orchestra contributes, the production directed by Allison Olivia Choat lacked the ironic vitality Sondheim’s score and Furth’s book brilliantly accomplish. The musicians carry the triple-rhyme scheme of the repeated lyric to reflect the repetition in Robert’s life, lending strong emotion to the opening number. Instead of taking Sondheim’s musical cues, the actors commented more on the material than they partnered with the orchestra. Not a single performance, with the exception of Ms. Barrett’s “Ladies Who Lunch,” was committed and non-judgmental.
Ms. Choat’s Company missed the intellective clarity, falling short of an appreciation for the human condition. The staging was witty at times. In “Getting Married Today,” Amy (Shonna Cirone) runs into the audience away from Jenny (Teresa Winner Blume), who plays the priest cloaked in a red robe; in “Tick Tock,” Kathy (Lisa Dempsey) does an erotic, lyrical dance before a passionate Robert and April (Katie Clark). It was a nice segue into “Barcelona,” one of the most well-conceived one-night-stand songs ever written.
The pillar in any production is, of course, Robert. As interpreted by a confident Carney, he plays the third wheel in casual attire to all his friends and nothing more. He may have had the look, but he lacked the vocal demands to share his closing number “Being Alive” as the tortured realization it’s meant to be. The song is Robert’s climactic musical statement. Not only was Carney seriously straining himself vocally, but he lacked terror and uncertainty, ultimately resolving what should have been left unsolved.
He wasn’t the only one who couldn’t carry the advanced musical technique required for a Sondheim piece. Cirone fell so far behind the music in “Getting Married Today” that the orchestra slowed down. As a result, ends of phrases were dropped and Cirone lost the neurosis of the number by not maintaining the patter sections.
The production optimizes with Ms. Barrett, the only equity actor in Company. She came to life only during her drunken diatribe “Ladies Who Lunch.” Barrett even had the courage to expose herself onstage, the only time she moved being to sip her drink. Her Joanne is a miserable alcoholic who delivered the song through attacks of semi-reasoned rage. The only thing that she had to protect herself was the vodka stinger.
The comedy and naiveté of the production lay in the hands of Clark, who as a cute, spunky, and charismatic flight attendant stood apart from Robert’s other two, less impressive girlfriends in “You Could Drive A Person Crazy.” The number, filled with trick rhymes, invested Clark with a wit lacked by Dempsey and Alicia (Marta). Clark playfully verbalized and physicalized the lyrics in contrast to the acidity of what was actually being sung.
Overall, the Sondheim score is the star of the show, highlighting Furth’s entertaining collection of vignettes. The performances fell short of offering a profound and unresolved insight on Robert’s acceptance of his vulnerability and unwillingness to settle.
Company will run February 7th through March 1st at the Nancy and Edward Roberts Studio Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts.