All words: The Theatre Gay
Half of all marriages end in divorce. Unless it’s gay marriages, ’cause gay people are too busy trying to ruin the sanctity of marriage to ruin their own, obviously. In all seriousness though, breeders have been ruining marriage for far longer than us gays even had the idea to settle down. At least, that’s what Stephen Sondheim tells us with his episodic musical “Company,” currently playing at Signature Theatre in Arlington. “Company” dissects our American attitude around marriage, and why we’re so “Sorry/Grateful” we have it.
The show takes place in New York City and centers around a single man who is surreptitiously friends with five married couples. Bobby is a 35-year-old man who’s the very definition of failure to launch. In a series of vignettes, we learn that Bobby is often invited over to his friends’ houses as company (oh how clever, Sondheim!) and that Bobby is physically incapable of finding the ‘right woman.’ Even though ‘he meets a girl a minute,’ he can’t seem to find the one to spend more than a minute with.
Each couple has different advice for Bobby in his search for love, but eventually the advice just seems overwhelming. Bobby is the proverbial fly on the wall to his friends’ marriages. Throughout the course of the play, he witnesses a happy divorce, the unwinding of a prudish couple, an almost canceled wedding, and a knock down karate fight between man and wife. And with friends like this, who wouldn’t want to get married?
Signature’s production, however, doesn’t leave me with a feeling of marital bliss–which I expected–but rather glad that I signed that prenup. Let’s talk about the set design, which is beautifully constructed. With four video monitors at the back of the stage, and a 1980s penchant for neon piping, the set could swallow the actors, which it did at times. Sleek and shiny and masculine, Daniel Conway designed the perfect prototype for American Psycho: The Musical, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The script screams yuppie, and I think his design really gave that life. But with unnecessary slide shows of couples in loving embrace, and trains speeding by, at times the design got in the way of the story.
Watching Signature’s production, I’m reminded of the most boring roller-coaster ride I’ve ever taken. There are times that the play really hits it out of the park, but unfortunately those are few and far between. Signature’s production features some of the regular Signature actors some of who we’ve come to know, and some of who we’ve come to love. Let’s first discuss whom I love: Erin Weaver. I was feeling kind of blah until she picked the show up with her number “I’m Not Getting Married Today.”
Now, to some faces that I know: Sherri Edelen. She starts the show off strong, and decadent, and I almost loved it. But unfortunately, her “Ladies Who Lunch” was uninspired at best. Matthew Scott as Robert was there. It’s a difficult role, and I don’t know if his performance was quite up to snuff. And yes, it’s super cute that they decided to cast three real life couples. Google search the Washington Post article, I’m not summing it up here. But I have to say, Signature, I am getting kind of tired of seeing the same faces over and over.
Overall, it seems that Company is a weak spot in Signature’s wonderful season. I give them props though. Sondheim’s musicals are not easy, and I would say Company is one of the hardest. As they close out the 2012-2013 season, I’m excited to see how their next season turns out.