Dissatisfied with the Columbia dating scene? Don’t seek solace in Stephen Sondheim’s “Company.”
However, for a well-rounded student theater production, the Columbia Musical Theatre Society’s rendition of the 1970 musical plays this weekend in Lerner Black Box. “Company” follows eligible bachelor Robert and his interactions with a variety of married friends and lovers. The show does not paint a pretty picture of marriage, or of singlehood—to put it bluntly, basically every character in this show seems to be slowly coming apart at the seams.
The relationships depicted in the show are both satirical and amusing, but are also often gratingly passive-aggressive or just plain awkward. Fortunately, the universally strong cast manages to make characters who rely on death glares as a form of communication compelling—endearing, even.
As self-proclaimed “square” Jenny, campus theater favorite Sarah Dooley, BC ’11, makes the most out of a minor character and inspires the audience to erupt with laughter within two lines—although students familiar with her purposefully gawky acting style might argue she’s just playing a version of herself. Angela Seales, GS, succeeds as airhead flight attendant April, a passionate woman buried behind a deer-in-the-headlights facade, and has a lovely, crisp voice to boot.
As Robert, Austin Smith, CC ’10, makes good use of a voice so powerful that it nearly overwhelms the Black Box’s sound system. His finely tuned acting is well suited for a character who is simultaneously desperate for someone to love and happiest alone.
Sondheim’s complex, angular melodies are notoriously difficult to sing, but CMTS navigates them admirably. Unfortunately, however, the jazz band providing the accompaniment occasionally plays so loudly that the intricate harmonies are drowned out and the lyrics rendered indecipherable.
The choreography is inherently rather limited because the music, which stops and starts frequently, does not lend itself particularly well to dancing. However, one number, “Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You,” includes an extended tap dance break, performed with a heavy dose of irony. The number’s liberal use of jazz hands and time steps lies in stark contrast to the rest of the show, which relies on moments of silence to portray the emotional distance between people.
The set and costumes are minimal, and entirely monochromatic. The cast is elegantly outfitted in myriad black pieces—suits, pencil skirts, and heels. The set consists solely of two shelves stocked with glassware, a few hanging lights, and simple black chairs forming the first row of the audience, in which cast members sit when not participating in a scene.
From their seats in the front row, the actors finally have an opportunity to regain their composure. Regardless of whether their relationships—on-stage or otherwise—are going smoothly, their relaxed expressions show that “Company” certainly is.