Review by Brittany Crowell
It’s Bobbie’s 35th birthday and she’s awaiting the company of her many, coupled friends who are throwing her a (not-so) surprise birthday bash. An expert third wheel, everyone loves Bobbie; they envy her freedom: she reminds them of singledom and all its beauty, but also reassures them that they have made the best decision by remaining with their partner. For Bobbie, thirty-five brings along with it even more questions about settling down with a special someone: Is it worth it? Should she do it? What will she get from it?
What follows is a fever dream of Bobbie’s happily, unhappily and everything-between coupled friends popping in and out of Bobbie’s memories as she relives episodes with exes and conversations with friends. Time speeds and stops around her. Clocks are stuck with hands on 3 and 5, a constant reminder of Bobbie’s age. In other scenes, the hands of time speed forward as Bobbie imagines futures with Andy, PJ, Theo, and everything in between in an almost nightmare-ish state.
Directed by Marianne Elliott, the revival of Company on Broadway showcases Elliott’s stylistically clean and sparse aesthetic. Scenic designer Bunny Christie uses the stage to epitomize the large chasm of Bobbie’s mind where various episodes float into audience view, then back out to the foggy darkness of Bobbie’s consciousness. Supported by the expert lighting design of Neil Austin, these scenes pop to life as recalled and fade away throughout the course of the piece – utilizing both emptiness and fullness to showcase the loneliness and busied chaos that compete for Bobby’s internal attention.
Katrina Lenk brings charisma and youthful energy to the gender-swapped Bobbie. Previously a playboy, in this revival we see a woman who is confident and fun while also guarded and unsure. Lenk leads the audience charmingly from solo sips of birthday whiskey all the way to the piece’s final tearful plea for someone to hold her too close, hurt her too deep. The supporting cast shines in this piece with standouts being the comic timing of Jennifer Simard and the speed-singing of Matt Doyle (helped by the amazing stage illusions of Chris Fisher).
Many of the roles from the 1970 original have been swapped to a new gender in very satisfying and revealing ways. The incredibly attractive but self-proclaimed “dumb” flight attendant, Andy, turns the stereotype of the attractive unintelligent woman satisfyingly on its head, and Bobbie’s plea to marry Jamie feels even more desperate with the swap from Bobbie to a woman and Jamie to a gay man.
In a new century where women (especially New York women) are getting married later or not at all and forgoing the idea of children, this 51-year-old musical takes on a whole new weight. What does it mean to get married? What does it mean to not? Is it worth it? The reimagined Company plays perfectly into the dichotomy that comes along with any relationship or contemplation of singledom and brings the audience on a journey of all the sorrow, gratitude, regret, and happiness that a relationship can bring.
COMPANY – music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; Book by George Furth; directed by Marianne Elliott
FEATURING: Katrina Lenk (Bobbie); Patti Lupone (Joanne); Matt Doyle (Jamie); Christopher Fitzgerald (David); Christopher Sieber (Harry); Jennifer Simard (Sarah); Terence Archie (Larry); Etai Benson (Pau); Bobby Conte (PJ); Nikki Renée Daniels (Jenny); Claybourne Elder (Andy); Greg Hildreth (Peter); Many Narayan (Theo); Rashidra Scott (Susan); Kathryn Allison, Britney Coleman, Jacob Dickey, Javier Ignacio, Anisha Nagarajan, Heath Saunders (New Yorkers).
Scenic and costume design by Bunny Christie; lighting design by Neil Austin; sound design by Ian Dickinson for Autograph; illusions by Chris Fisher; hair wig and makeup design by Campbell Young Associates; music supervision and music direction by Joel Fram; Choreography by Liam Steel. Running at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre (242 West 45th Street). www.companymusical.com