“Company” stirs up relationship drama
Marriage: the word itself can spark conflict. To some, it signifies the joining of two lives as one and the designation of a forever companion. To others, it represents the death of independent living, and an archaic means of eternally yoking one person to another.
The 18-member cast of Stephen Sondehim’s musical, “Company,” guest directed by Todd Nielsen, explores the validity of tying the knot. The sophomore, junior and senior actors give a glimpse into the triumphs and pitfalls of married life, all the while trying to help the unwed character Robert (senior theatre performance major Trevor Shor) decide whether or not he wants to get hitched. Though the play drags on, clocking in at nearly three hours, it’s worth seeing.
“Company” opens with Robert, more frequently referred to as Bobby, before his surprise 35th birthday party. His friends, all married or soon-to-be-married New York City couples, are quite clearly devoted to him to the point of obsession. Yet Shor makes it clear that Bobby adores his friends in spite of their quirks, and proceeds to learn valuable lessons from each of them.
Bobby first finds himself invited to dinner at the home of his friends Sarah (junior screen acting major Madison Lanesey) and Harry (sophomore theatre performance Jordan Goodsell) as a headstrong couple. The two help each other improve in a somewhat unconventional way. Harry is a recently-sober alcoholic doing his best to avoid drinking, and Sarah is a type-A housewife determined to stay on a diet.
The two bicker constantly, which eventually culminates in an odd, yet completely hilarious karate match in the middle of after-dinner drinks, the sheer physical comedy of which puts the audience in stitches.
Despite all the squabbles and challenges in Harry and Sarah’s relationship, the fact that the two belong together isn’t hard to believe. Bobby asks Sarah if he’s ever sorry he got married, and his reply is the touching song “Sorry-Grateful.” He melodically explains that despite the struggles, their marriage has helped shape him into who he is, and is a decision he could never regret.
From there, the play hastily moves on to each of the other couples, who seem well pulled together on the surface but realistically are perpetually going through their own struggles. Susan and Peter (sophomore theatre performance majors Nicole Coffaro and Andrew Moorhead) seem like the perfect couple as he is a city slicker and she a southern belle. Yet when they gleefully announce their impending divorce to Bobby, it confuses him even more.
In true Sondheim fashion, each couple’s dirty laundry is aired through song, most amusingly during “Getting Married Today.” It reveals Amy’s (junior screen acting major Olivia de Boutray) overwhelming wedding day as she panics that she could be too crazy and ruin her beloved fiancé (senior theatre performance major A.J. Costa), making a humorous scene that the audience can easily relate to.
By the end, Bobby realizes that though his life is filled with a colorful cast of friends and a revolving door of girlfriends, all that company doesn’t stop him from feeling alone. Just when the play begins to feel a little too lengthy and distant for the college demographic, Shor pulls the audience back with the sweetly heartbreaking finale, “Being Alive,” which you’ll have to see to fully appreciate.
“Company” will continue to run in Waltmar Theatre Thursday through Saturday. Tickets can be purchased online at chapman.edu/copa for $15.