BWW Review: COMPANY at Just Off Broadway is a Fun, Funny and Fast-Paced Show with Heart
For a majority of my adult life I've assumed Stephen Sondheim's COMPANY was a show about the backstage workings of a company of actors - a bit like NOISES OFF. It was only recently I learned that the show's title actually refers to an entirely different meaning of the word company. Thanks to the cast and crew of Just Off Broadway's fabulous production for clearing that up for me! While on the subject of confessions, I must also share that - like the director Jason Crawford Samios-Uy mentioned in his note in the program, I've also never been a huge fan of Sondheim. I think he's equal parts creative genius and musical mastermind, however his shows have never appealed to me the way others have.
That was until I was given the chance to see this production, which I fell head over heels for. It isn't like other Sondheim shows I've witnessed. COMPANY seems current and it actually applies to my life. My problem with a lot of Sondheim's works are that they're so out there, so to speak. I can't find anything in them that feels real to me. However, COMPANY which tells the story of singleton Bobby and all of his married friends, seemed more real and as a single girl, very much reminded me of my current life. In other words, I finally had a story that appealed to me. Therefore I was finally free to enJoy Sondheim's very particular brand of wordy, fast-paced music.
All of this would not have been possible without the work of this company (pun fully intended) of marvelous actors. Bobby - the bachelor who is questioning whether he should continue to live his bachelor lifestyle was wonderfully played by Rob Wall. Bobby could have just been a cad, but Rob's portrayal gave Bobby heart and depth. I could see why all of these crazy couples would enjoy his company (I just can't seem to stop using that word...) so much.
The beauty of the couples that Sondheim brought to life in this show, is that they're all very different. No married couple is the same as another, so the couples in this play are all written very differently. This provided lots of character work for this talented group of actors. One of the ways Just Off Broadway highlighted these differences was with the costuming. Women were dressed in a variety of outfits from fun vintage cocktail dresses to laid-back casualwear. And the men's wear ranged from full suits that were maybe a bit too buttoned-up, to sweaters and jeans. The couples' outfits all told a story of who they were and how they lived. Add to that the work the actors did to instill their characters with love for each other and a healthy dose of meddling in Bobby's life, and you have a pretty fantastic ensemble.
This group of actors were able to really stand out thanks to the use of minimal set decoration. Black risers and movable cubes took the place of sofas, chairs, a bed and even a New York City terrace. Actors were able to move the pieces around seamlessly to build these different apartments or restaurants. With the use of these pieces and a few props - most specifically drink glasses seeing as the group was always partying at someone's home - this ensemble told a lovely and fast-moving story of friendship, and love.
By the closing curtain, it's questionable whether or not Bobby's friends have actually helped him or not. I'd like to think they taught him that love has many different facets and features, however, maybe not everyone is cut out for that lifestyle. It seemed to me that the Bobby that I saw on the stage was perfectly happy sharing this love with his friends, but maybe he'd be just fine going about his single life. That's the beauty of this work and particularly this production. The actors do their best to tell a fun, funny and pretty realistic story of life and love in New York City (I'm pretty sure COMPANY was written in the 1970s, but it seems to still work in today's world), and succeed fully. But in the end, it's up to the audience to decide what Bobby's decided. Just as Bobby is given the choice between the single life and settling down, we're left with the choice of what we think is right for him. Whichever way you interpret that particular ending, the entire production lead by this great troupe of actors, is very, very right.
You have only one more weekend to catch Just Off Broadway's outstanding production of COMPANY: October 20 & 22, 2017. Don't miss it!