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Monday, December 05, 2011

Ryan Speakman as Bobby in "Company" at Playhouse on Park. Photo by David B. Newman.

Ageless, timeless "Company" at Playhouse on Park
by Kory Loucks
WEST HARTFORD — To be single or not to be single, that is the question which never seems to grow old and is what makes Steven Sondheim’s “Company” an ageless musical.
It’s striking how much this award-winning show, which ran on Broadway in 1970, predates the “Sex and the City” craze as well as the metro-male sexually ambiguous mid-30s guy.
Bobby, played with angst by the excellent Ryan Speakman, is the relationship allergic man in question, who is surrounded by couples who want nothing more than to have him join their team.
He is a serial dater living in New York City with three single women he keeps in various states of relationship limbo, always being the gentleman, and retreating as soon as one of them gets a little too close.
There’s the energetic sophisticate, Marta, played with sass by Keisha Gilles, the ditzy, vapid flight attendant April (an amusing Lea Nardi), and the good girl, city misfit Kathy played by Alexandra Cutler.
Bobby only takes a perceived risk when he is confident that he will be shot down, and prefers the idea of having a significant other in his life — just not the reality.
The horrified look on Bobby’s face when April complies with his professed wish that she stay says everything we need to know about Bobby.
This show is perfectly cast and well acted with tight direction and smart choreography by Leslie Unger.
Without exception, each of the actors sings beautifully. I also love the audacious way that the first and the second act open with the same a cappella number.
“Side By Side By Side” is another strong song near the start of the second act, which is even better than the first act, as well as shorter.
Bobby has lots of well-meaning friends, each of who adds their own take on the relationship continuum in short vignettes throughout the evening.
There is wealthy, brassy, cynical Joanne (a snappy Amanda Bruton) with her long-suffering but loving husband Larry (a kind Ben Beckley). My favorite song in the show is the harsh and acerbic “The Ladies Who Lunch,” sung with fabulous venom by Bruton.
There’s the friendly bisexual Peter (Kevin Barlowski) and his open-minded wife Susan (the funny, perky Victoria Thornsbury)
Meredith Swanson plays the controlling argumentative Sarah, who does some convincing karate moves with her equally argumentative and combative husband Harry, played by Erik Agle.
Sarah also has some pronounced issues with food and dieting that ring just as true today as they must have decades ago.
Hillary Ekwall is believable as the straight-laced square wife Jenny, with an understanding, patient husband, David, played by Scott Caron.
There’s somebody for everybody to relate to in this substantial cast and my favorite is the funny, fiercely intelligent and thoroughly neurotic Amy, played by Jennifer Lauren Brown, with her sensitive and loving fiancĂ©e, David, played by Scott Caron.
Brown walks the fine line between sweetly neurotic and downright nuts and does it with flair, even when she is literally climbing the walls.
The orchestra, directed by Music Director Colin Britt, is supportive, tuneful, and never too loud in the small, intimate space at Playhouse on Park.
The set by Dan Nischan, is simple, with a wooden box in the center of a large and a raised stage platform where most of the action takes place, with chairs in the background for the couples to rest. It works well with the non-linear, episodic nature of this musical.
The costumes by Erin Kacmarcik, along with some towering high-heeled shoes for the woman, suit the characters; however, Sarah and Joanne wear black and navy blue together, which are not my favorite color combos.
“Company” is a timeless musical with a super cast that is tight, strong, and beautifully realized at Playhouse on Park, running through Sunday, Dec. 18.
If you enjoy musicals and love Sondheim you must see this show.

4 Stars
Theater: Playhouse on Park
Location: 244 Park Road, West Hartford
Production: Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by George Furth. Directed with choreography by Leslie Unger. Music direction by Colin Britt. Costume design by Erin Kacmarcik. Set design by Dan Nischan. Lighting design by Tim Hache. Production Manager Ryan Bell.
Running time: 2 ½ hours plus a 15-minute intermission
Show Times: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. through Dec. 18.
Tickets: $20 — $32.50. Call the box office at 860-523-5900 ext. 10 or visit their website at
Ryan Speakman ... Bobby
Amanda Bruton ... Joanne
Kevin Barlowski ... Peter
Lea Nardi ... April
Jennifer Lauren Brown ... Amy
Keisha Gilles ... Marta
Victoria Thornsbury ... Susan
Meredith Swanson ... Sarah
Erik Agle ... Harry
Brian Detlefs ... Paul
Hillary Ekwall ... Jenny
Ben Beckley ... Larry
Scott Caron ... David
Alexandra Cutler ... Kathy

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