Should I get married? Or is that too complicated? I mean, with good friends, who needs anybody else? These questions, and more, are being asked by the troupe of “Company,” the latest musical comedy in residence at the Coronado Playhouse.
Based on a book by George Furth, this is a contemporary adaptation of the Tony Award winning 1970 musical by Stephen Sondheim.
Set either, “yesterday, today, or tomorrow,” the play follows a young bachelor, Robert, on his 35th birthday.
Composed of a series of non-linear vignettes, Robert spends several nights with each of his friends, all married couples, and questions the future of his romantic life, unsure whether to find love and enter a committed relationship, or continue to satisfy his need for interpersonal intimacy through socializing with friends.
Nathan Wetter star of the show
The star of the show is Nathan Wetter, who plays Robert with a Raymond Carver-like dreariness and an ardor for alcohol. While Robert has less to say than his counterparts among each of the vignettes, he says the most by saying nothing, propelling an undercurrent through each musical number that dominates the ambiance.
When a song or a story is being told by some outlandish friend of Robert’s, Wetter slips into the background to avoid detracting from the moment, but seamlessly creeps Robert’s reactions and sentiments through the holes and cracks, so as if to narrate all of the numbers through the lens of his conflicting emotions. Every musical piece has a tone and tempo of its own, but the culminating mood of each piece is directed by Robert’s reaction to it.
Wetter gives a phenomenal performance as Robert, but that is strongly facilitated by the general chemistry of the cast.
Among the interactions of the couples, and the interactions of the cast in ensemble numbers, they all work with each other superbly. There’s a tangible feeling of fondness among the performers on stage, and their interactions flow harmoniously between each other.
Then there’s Cindy St. Clair
Despite their balance, it would be misgiving not to mention the performance of Cindy St. Clair as Jenny, who almost steals the show whenever St. Clair is on stage.
From silly to serious, St. Clair is able to jump freely between both and do it with the singing voice of an operatic angel and the dance moves of a versatile thespian. When paired with the laugh-out-loud funny Richard Dueñez Morrison as David, they certainly steal the spotlight.
And what never appears in the spotlight, but remains the hidden gem of this show are the production elements. The stage design is brilliant, the stage composed only of three wall-frames on wheels and a bar, that, slightly recalibrated in every scene is able to reproduce the entire New York domestic sphere: outdoors, indoors, or both simultaneously, it’s an incredibly effective use of the limited space.
The pallet-like walls can make the theater wider than the stage itself, dragging the audience to hell and back, but it can also confine the audience to Robert’s cloistered brain, trying to fit the entire cast of characters in a room smaller than a cubicle and translating the pressure and claustrophobia Robert feels in his relationships.
Lighting, sound design are teleportative
In addition, the efficacious and subliminal use of lighting and sound design, are extra teleportative; within the span of a single song, “Another Hundred People,” simple readjustments of the walls and shifts in ambient light and sound takes the story from a bar, to a park, to a subway station within 3 minutes, and it’s seamless.
When Robert’s friends sing him happy birthday to the tune of “Oh Fortuna”’ and for the 3-second duration, the dramatic, bright crimson lighting teleports everyone straight to hell for an instant; my life flashed before my eyes.
“Company” is a traveling musical, taking its audience across the streets and homes of New York as well in and out of young Robert’s mind. It’s a story that might leave you with a sense of incompleteness by the end, but when you’ve finished sorting through the induced delirium tremens that is the sequence of events, you’re left with a story about incompleteness and questions about your own relationships.
Director Blake McCarty says aptly about the play, “it speaks to our shared human experience and the rupture, repair, and self-reflection that is required to forge authentic relationships with others.”
“Company” has been extended through April 2nd, and showtimes are Thursday through Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.