Sondheim’s show proves to be good ‘Company’

“What do you get?” This is the seemingly simple question that the protagonist of “Company,” the perpetually single Bobby, puts to his group of friends – all married – before the musical’s finale. Why, he wants to know, are people drawn to the idea of marriage; why do people get married and make their marriages work? What exactly does marriage have to offer that is so alluring and essential? What do you get?

This is also the question at which “Company” probes. Directed by Jamie O’Leary ’04 and Cece Lederer ’06 of Cap and Bells, the show strives to explain, more or less, why we structure our lives the way we do.

With music and lyrics by Williams alumn Stephen Sondheim ’50, based George Furth’s book of the same title, “Company” has an unconventional plot line. The show is constructed out of a series of lightly-drawn vignettes revolving around Bobby, stringing together his interactions with his wacky coupled-up friends. These often hilarious scenes are interspersed with songs whose lyrics reveal the truth at the center of each relationship.

Adam Zamora ’05 played Bobby as a detached observer, bouncing from the home of one crazy couple to the next, watching marital antics without involvement or point of reference. Bobby behaves as “more of a chameleon than a human being, feeding off whoever is around.” He simply takes in what is happening around him, delighted in his status as the third wheel and the way it draws his friends’ focus to him, whether they are looking to him for support, using him to prove a point to their spouses, or trying to fix him up. At first, he seems to use his friends’ craziness to reaffirm his enjoyment of his bachelor status. As the show goes on, though, he comes to learn that amidst marital craziness comes the comfort and security of a loving relationship, of constant affection and company – the one thing that he lacks. By the end of the show, when he sings “Being Alive,” expressing his need for “someone to hold [him] too close, someone to hurt [him] too deep. . .someone to need [him] too much,” he has decided to change his life and seek this. Zamora clearly and identifiably shows Bobby making this transition, shifting from bemusement, to confusion, to longing.

Bobby comes to this realization entirely because of his friends. The cast portrayed Bobby’s friends as loving and committed to each other in spite of (or perhaps because of?) their zaniness. Their underlying, consistent affection for one another was palpable throughout the performance. They were also hysterically funny. “Every character in the play has the ability to steal the show,” said Liz DiMenno ’05, who played April, a flight attendant with whom Bobby has a fling. Indeed, each character does so during his or her time onstage. Sarah (Liz Just ’04) and Harry (James Cart ’05) nag and tease each other about her forcing him to be “on the wagon” and herself to be on a diet, and their squabble ends in a haphazard karate duel. Jenny (Brittany Duncan ’05) and David (Josh Kotin ’03) try to interact after getting stoned, which is the first time for Jenny. Amy (Lili Zimett ’05) is about to finally marry Paul (Chris Vazquez ’04), but she gives new meaning to the notion of pre-wedding jitters as she launches into a half-hysterical song. The cast invested energy and enthusiasm in their roles, going the perfect amount over the top.

The songs are one of the best parts of “Company.” The cast members used their strong voices to evoke the emotions that each song encompasses, from upbeat production numbers like “Side by Side by Side” and “Company,” to solos like the world-weary “Another Hundred People” and “The Ladies Who Lunch,” to the triumphant “Being Alive.” They hammed it up for humorous songs like “The Little Things You Do Together,” about the small things like “the concerts you enjoy together, neighbors you annoy together, children you destroy together, that make marriage a joy.” In “You Could Drive A Person Crazy,” three of Bobby’s off-and-on girlfriends explain that, in the context of a relationship, Bobby can “impersonate a person better than a zombie should.” But there were also bittersweet, hopeful and heartbreaking numbers like “Sorry-Grateful,” about the constant wondering of whether or not marriage is a good idea.

The show’s choreography was straightforward and effective, fusing perfectly with the songs. The three girlfriends did a cabaret-style performance, complete with boas, while singing “You Could Drive a Person Crazy.” The entire cast did a whimsical kick-line during “Side by Side by Side.” The choreography is also often symbolic of the show’s themes. At one point, Liz Suda ’05, who plays one of the girlfriends, performed an energetic interpretive dance to symbolize Bobby and April’s emotions during sex. Towards the end, her hands lingered in the air, falling dejectedly in sucession as Bobby struggled to return April’s tentative “I love you.” Perhaps the most evocative part was when, during “Side by Side by Side,” several of the characters did short tap dances along with their spouses; Bobby, too, did a tap dance, but, unlike the others, his did not fit the timing of the song because he did not have a partner with whom to finish it.

Perhaps the best part of the show, though, was each cast member’s apparent enthusiasm for and enjoyment of being onstage. “This is the only show I’ve been in where everyone not only fit their part, but loved it. . .everyone does their scenes the best they can,” said Zamora.

“I know the entire cast hopes we have given director [O’Leary] the show that he deserves as an amazingly dedicated and talented director,” said DiMenno.

“The reason we were able to pull off such a large production was because of the dedication and the talent of the people working on it. The cast was not only fun to work with, easy to direct and creative, but they were extraordinarily committed,” O’Leary said. Cart added, “I spent nine weeks singing and dancing with the same people and I didn’t want to kill any of them at the end of it – I think that’s a plus.”

Vazquez sums it up: “The experience of making the musical in itself represents the main point of the musical – 14 actors and several directors coming together and becoming a close knit group, inside of which we all found strength in friendship, support and – most importantly – company.”