Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by George Furth
Directed and Choreographed by Jared E. Walker
Starring Jason Kimble as Robert
The Players
838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941)365-2494
Through Mid-October, 2008 

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker


The Players’ production of Company points out the problem of presenting this 1970 musical in the new century. Here the costumes (e.g. mini-skirts, pastel pumps, flowery shirts) and the set’s main-room furnishings with lots of chrome say “period piece” while the cagey levels of set and mood-setting lettering on the backdrop behind an NYC silhouette say “maybe today.” Company, a ground-breaking “concept” musical, seems stuck in old ideas of marriages that don’t work--or do, but not pleasantly. They’re all “Side by Side By Side” watched by or watching anti-hero Robert on his 35th birthday. And then some.
Robert is genial (almost too much so in cute Jason Kimble’s version) but a vapid bachelor who uses, sometimes thinks he’s in love with, but ultimately can’t commit to any woman. A sort of yuppy Peer Gynt, he travels among five couples who try to illustrate how happy they are, as well as among three very different types of women. A series of cynical vignettes presents their interactions with Robert, each marked by song. Probably the most memorable has Stephanie Costello’s Amy pissed about “Getting Married Today”. After all, she’s been living perfectly well with Paul (sympathy-winning David Abolafia) sans benefit of clergy! (There’s some pitiful stuff about being a Catholic having a Jew that may have once passed for funny. Or daring. Now it’s neither.) Best known portrait features “The Ladies Who Lunch” soliloquy. Sandra Musicante, glamorous in gold jumpsuit, distinguishes her version from the definitive one of Elaine Stritch, but it’s too mild to stop the show. Cara Herman, a major local musical talent, nearly goes to waste, as Southern belle Susan, who’s most in love with her husband after they’re divorced. The book doesn’t substantiate why.
Marta, played by lively Deniz Hakim, directs attention to Robert’s flings with marriageable women, including herself. She, Erica Wilkes’ Kathy, and Katherine V.’s April tell Robert “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” but remain mad about him. After a tryst with breathy stewardess (remember?) April, he asks why she has to leave for “Barcelona” and keeps asking her (with his fine voice at its finest) to stay. What a surprise (and a shock to him) when she finally agrees! It’s Sondheim/Furth at their ironic and musical best.
Jared E. Walker’s direction is as uneven as Matthew Nitsch’s set. But Kaylene McCaw’s costumes are right on. Jeffrey Dillon’s lighting is all over the place, most notably glaring downstage and in psychedelic colors for the backdrop. Lights do keep pace effectively with scene-setting demands. Walker’s choreography shows to better advantage in his blocking than in the sparse dancing. Sondheim’s score’s challenges are well met by Emily Croome’s musical direction. It may seem as if Company breaks ground on the length of its first Act. However, “Being  Alive” and “After Being Alive” are celebrated at the mixed-blessing end of Act II for a total production of 2 hours, 42 minutes.

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