BWW Review: COMPANY at Castle Craig Players
On Friday, July 27, I had the pleasure of seeing the Stephen Sondheim musical COMPANY, performed wonderfully by the Castle Craig Players at the Almira F. Stephan Memorial Playhouse in Meriden, CT. Under the consistently brilliant direction of Ian Galligan (Crumpet the Elf in The Santaland Diaries), the Castle Craig Players have yet again delivered on the expected high quality that is characteristic of all their shows.
The set depicts the inside of a New York City apartment that is towards the top of a skyscraper, with an amazing view of the other buildings in the city, as seen through three windows. The angle of the views works magnificently to convey the desired effect.
Under the musical direction of Michael Winslow, a talented four piece band performs the music, from backstage, out of the view of the audience, but with their presence strongly felt in a very positive way.
The story is written by George Furth, originally with the intent of being a collection of one-acts, but ultimately combining to become this musical about five couples, three single ladies, and a central protagonist named Robert (Rob Girardin), a bachelor who is celebrating his 35th birthday, and deeply pondering whether he wants to get married. Receiving mixed messages about marriage from his married friends, and while struggling with mixed feelings towards the three single ladies he is casually involved with, Robert's emotional turmoil regarding whether to pursue a married life, and if so, with whom, becomes the central plotline of the story, with comedic highlights found in the stories of the individual couples.
The first couple who we learn about is the young couple of Sarah (Jessica Bartolotta) and Harry (Nick Ciasullo.) Jessica Bartolotta and Nick Ciasullo have excellent stage chemistry, totally selling their roles both as individuals and in terms of their relationship with each other. Sarah has recently learned karate. After a hysterical warm-up which highlights Jessica Bartolotta's amazing talent to excel in a farcical role, Harry and Sarah start to spar, both winning some of the points, if you will, and both cast members entertaining the audience by their sparring maneuvers, dynamics with each other, and strong stage presence.
Another young couple is Jenny (Emma Czaplinski) and David (Jim Kane.) Jenny and David get stoned with Robert. Jenny initially claims that she feels no differently, but her behavior and manner of speaking, pointed out to her by David, show a very different story. The juxtaposition between Jenny's hyper stoned behavior and David's mellow stoned behavior is hilariously portrayed by Jim Kane and Emma Czaplinski who also have strong stage chemistry, selling their characters as well as the dynamics between them. Emma Czaplinski's excellent singing voice is also highlighted during other scenes.
Jennifer Del Sole who has previously graced Castle Craig Players' audiences with her strong acting and singing abilities when she starred in The Marvelous Wonderettes, now steals the show in COMPANY, in the role of Amy, highlighting another dimension of her singing talents, the ability to sing at an extremely fast pace,, nailing every word and note with precision and clarity. Her lead vocal parts in the song "Getting Married Today," are so rapid that they make "I Am The Very Model," from The Pirates of Penzance sound like a slow ballad in comparison. The song fits the personality of the farcically neurotic and theologically confused character, another amazing acting performance from Jennifer Del Sole. We also see strong dynamics with actor Ian Lynch-Passarelli who portrays Paul, Amy's fiancé during this scene. The comedic vibe of the scene also flows flawlessly into a powerfully emotional dramatic mood when Amy tells Paul, on their wedding day, before their wedding takes place, that she does not love him enough to marry him. Ian Lynch-Passarelli's countenance and delivery in response is so convincing that the entire audience feels for Paul. When he then leaves, and we see how well Jennifer Del Sole conveys Amy's feelings in return, the entire audience also feels for Amy. Will this couple get back together and get married? Come to the show to find out!
Dana Rudnansky gives a strong performance in the challenging role of April, a stewardess who is one of Robert's three casual relationships. Rather than being a conventionally over-the-top clichéd bubbly ditz, April comes across as a far more realistic flighty person, due to Dana Rudnansky's authentic words, expressions, and mannerisms, in portrayal of this character.
I highly recommend COMPANY for mature audiences (The show contains some language and a racy sex scene with Robert and April.) Company is scheduled to continue to run at the Almira F. Stephan Memorial Playhouse in Meriden, CT, as performed by the Castle Craig Players, through August 11, 2018, every Friday and Saturday at 7:30 P.M., every Sunday at 2:00 P.M., and with a Thursday performance on August 2 at 7:30 P.M. For tickets, please go to http://www.castlecraig.org/.