BWW Reviews: COMPANY Delivers at The Vagabond Players
Relationships, commitment, marriage, forever after, husband & wife, the intimacy and demands of everyday life together - all these issues are examined in Stephen Sondheim's "Company," playing at The Vagabond Players in Fells Point through November 17. The show is a musical comedy and it follows one single man, Bobby, and five married couples who are his best friends. It opens with Bobby's 35th surprise birthday party thrown by his married friends who wonder why he isn't married yet.
While the show's themes may sound overwhelming for a Friday or Saturday night out on the town, it charmingly explores the concept of marriage and allows the audience to observe one man's view of the highs and lows of married life. Bobby, played so expressively by Tom Burns, tenderly asks his friend Harry (played by Shawn Doyle) if he's every sorry he got married to which Harry replies in song, "You're always sorry; you're always grateful; which has nothing to do; all to do with her." Bobby can't grasp the intimacy of marriage, not the sexual intimacy, but the intermingling of lives on a daily basis. He would like to be married "just a little," and have his wife keep him company but not be exclusively tied up in his world.
Is Bobby's reluctance to marry because he's gay? The question has been debated through the years. "Company" opened on Broadway in 1970 and gingerly suggests that this may be Bobby's real issue as he admits to homosexual experiences when one of his married male friends makes advances. In fact, as we speak, there is buzz on Broadway about the play being rewritten as a gay musical. So, while it's a lurking theory behind the scenes, Bobby is portrayed as a straight man in search of a mate.
There are so many wonderful moments in this play that capture the many faces of marriage. There's Harry and Sarah, played by Shawn Doyle and Rikki Howie, who playfully wrestle each other to the floor in front of Bobby. There's Jenny and David, played by Jennifer Viets and Troy Hopper, who spend an evening with Bobby smoking dope and listening to Jenny use cuss words -- something new for her. There's the apron dance that all the husbands do as they sing to Bobby, "What do you want to get married for?"
And through it all, Bobby is the observer, and Tom Burns does an exceptional job at displaying his confusion, embarrassment and sadness over what he observes. His face shows such a range of emotion that I found myself just watching him record the give and take of married life.
Sarah Ford Gorman deserves special recognition for her performance as Marta, one of Bobby's girlfriends, who is so passionate about life in New York that Bobby seems so inadequate in comparison. She's funny, strong, and delivers the well known number, "Another Hundred People," so confidently and at a slower pace than the original that it makes the song so poignant you could cry.
"Company" is a musical and the cast is up to the challenge of Sondheim's score. Every performer has a strong voice in his and her own right. The problem I encountered on the second night of the performance is that individually they were strong, but collectively they had pitch problems. In the first half of the play, you could hear the one or two voices out of sync with the others. Perhaps with more performances, this will correct itself.
"Company" runs through November 17 and tickets can be purchased at www.vagabondplayers.org. The Vagabond Players is the oldest little theater in America. Established in 1916, the Vagabond continues to bring local, affordable, quality theater to Baltimore. Ticket prices range from $10 - $18.