Review "COMPANY": Marriages Look Perfect But That's Not What I Hear!

Griffin Theatre presents

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COMPANY
At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by George Furth
Musical direction by Allison Kane
Directed by Jonathan Berry
Fridays and Sundays at 7:30, Sundays at 3pm
Thru November 14th
Buy Tickets
Running time:  Two hours and ten minutes with a ten minute intermission

Reviewed by Katy Walsh

SWM, 35, ISO...  'somebody, hold me too close, somebody, hurt me too deep, somebody, sit in my chair and ruin my sleep, and make me aware, of being alive.'  OR should the ad read SWM, 35, ISO single friends?  Griffin Theatre presents COMPANY, the award-winning Stephen Sondheim musical.  The last single man standing in his circle of friends, Robert is turning 35. His friends decide to surprise him with a party.  There will be cake and lots of marital influence.  Robert doesn't know what he wants... at the crucial candle-blowing moment or relationship-wise.  COMPANY takes a look at married life from a single's guy perspective.   Being wed means somebody is there ALL the time.  Being wed means somebody is THERE all the time.  COMPANY justifies the moral majority pushing their lifestyle choice when presented with laughs, songs, and kazoos. 

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Griffin Company's COMPANY is a banded-together company of couples.  The pairings have been arranged with matchmaker precision and elicit an I-know-that-couple familiarity.  Director Jonathan Berry tightens the bond with well-orchestrated clusters of vignettes.  A stand-out scene with Mari Stratton (Sarah) and Trey Maclin (Harry) is hilarious as their veiled sniping goes physical.  Another impressive number, "Getting Married Today" features a superb rapid-singing Darci Nalepa (Amy) dueling with opera-esque diva Laura McClain (Susan) with an underlying harmony by Danny Taylor (Paul). Trifecta!  And here's to Allison Cain (Joanne) whose rendition of "The Ladies Who Lunch" is a delicious drunken blend of bitter and remorseful.  Not to be outdone, the single gals, Dana Tretta, Elizabeth Lanza, and Samantha Dubina, sass it up individually and collectively especially in the sizzling "You Could Drive A Person Crazy."  In the lead and the middle of the single-people-hate fest, Benjamin Sprunger (Robert) walks through the exchanges with a charming earnest.  Does he really want to 'meet someone and love the crap out of them?'  A boxer-clad Sprunger is HOT and perplexed seeing the benefits of going or not going to 'Barcelona.'   With costumes (Designer Alison Siple) defining individuality within the ensemble, Griffin's COMPANY acts and looks like the perfect marriages.  But that's not what I hear! 

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Stephen Sondheim's COMPANY produces some memorable tunes.  Unfortunately at Stage 773, they become forgettable because they're not always audible.  The band, located on the side of the stage, sounds strong and powerful under the direction of Allison Kane.  Despite what I'm guessing is a transparent buffer wall, the band sometimes overpowers the solo singers.  During "Another Hundred People", Dana Tretta's (Marta) lyrics are unclear except the last word when she marvelously belts it out.  Sprunger's microphone continually crackles and sometimes the audio sounds muffled like one-side of my head is under water.  Street noises are utilized initially for NYC ambiance.  In the second act, the real city sounds drown out the band as another cast does a show post-mortem outside on Belmont.    The new Stage 773 just revealed a plan for major renovations, let's hope it sounds as pretty as it looks. 

WAITING FOR THE SHOW
SWF, 46, ISO pre-theatre dinner.  Directly across the street from Stage 773, Coopers, 1232 W. Belmont, is a cross between a shotgun wedding and a marriage of convenience.   I have 45 minutes before curtain.  Surrounded by couples drinking the plethora of beer offerings, I go the lesser traveled road and ask for a hearty, dry red wine. The bartender pours up a full-bodied Zinfandel.  I pair it will the pulled pork Panini.  It's been brined for two days.  I'm not sure what that means but the practice can't be disputed.  Good wine and bbq are two great loves of mine.  Although I'm not wed to it forever, Coopers feels more of a 'satisfying' than 'settling' engagement.  I pay the bill and head over to be a theater watcher...    
'And here's to the girls who just watch--
Aren't they the best?
When they get depressed,
It's a bottle of Scotch,
Plus a little jest.
Another chance to disapprove,
Another brilliant zinger,
Another reason not to move,
Another vodka stinger.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!
I'll drink to that
.'

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