Play Review: "Company" // Book by George Furth // Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Going in to see my first college play performance I was extremely excited. It had been years since I’d seen a real play, and I say real because the train wreck portrayal of “Grease” I’d seen in high school barely counts in my opinion. I was mostly anticipating checking out of the real world for a few hours, enjoying some music, and for watching Maxwell Ward portray the protagonist Robert, because I’d heard that he’s a stellar performer. Unfortunately, “Company” fell flat for me in two of these three elements, and left me feeling more confused than anything.
Let’s start at the beginning after I’d just sat down in row K seat 17. The set on stage was glowing faintly from purple backlighting and I could make out that the setting was a big city, most likely New York, and it took place in the past, maybe in the 70s. I personally hate cities and urban settings in general. In fact, when I visited New York on a band trip during my freshman year of high school, I remember wanting nothing more than to return to my small hometown in Wisconsin as soon as possible. I also don’t know much about the 70s besides what has been eluded to in “That 70s Show.” So I basically didn’t know anything about this play besides that there was a man wearing a suit on the flyers posted up everywhere on campus. Things were already off to a bad start, but I was trying to keep an open mind.
Within a few minutes of the play beginning, I could already tell why so many people had told me to be excited for Maxwell’s performance. Even from such a distance he was handsome, especially in that nice suit, and extremely charismatic. Honestly, in my opinion he was one of the only good things about the entire performance. In the first scene “Bobby” is seen listening to messages on his answering machine and I thought, “Ok, he lives in an apartment in New York, it’s his birthday, and dang he has A LOT of friends,” but at the conclusion of the hundreds of messages on his answering machine things quickly spiraled downward. Soon enough I had literally no idea what was going on. It took me forever to figure out which character was which, I didn’t have a clue as to whether or not he wanted a relationship/marriage or didn’t want a relationship/marriage, and I couldn’t stop trying to figure out what the actual plot line of the play was. Yet, I don’t believe that the style of this play was absurdism because even though it didn’t solve a problem or really serve any purpose, I don’t think it was trying to point out the futility of our existence either. But who knows, I don’t really have an idea of what it was supposed to be about anyways.
Another character I’d like to point out is Larry. I don’t believe Aamer Mian was believable in this role because I never got past that he’s just a college kid acting in a play. However, I don’t blame Aamer’s acting for this, I think Larry is just a boring, dry character in general. His wife Joanne was my least favorite character simply because I understand that she was the cynical comic relief, but it got old fast and I was waiting for her to get deeper than humor but she never did. As I mentioned before, I thoroughly enjoyed Maxwell’s portrayal of Robert, but he was surprisingly not my favorite character. My favorite character was actually one that got merely one scene to really showcase herself and that was Amy or “Crazy Amy.” She barely had the spotlight to herself yet I enjoyed her singing the most, she was believable, and she was cute.
Getting a little more technical, I really enjoyed the way the set was set up. It was angled towards the center which made it seem like a more intimate space than a simple stage, and it kept my focus from drifting away from the center. I thought the cityscape backdrop was really pretty with the twinkle lights in the windows, and the backlights were always soft and cozy. The lighting in general was spot on, but there was one moment during the scene when Joanna was singing “The Ladies Who Lunch” that the lights went from bright and on her, to dim and distracting which I didn’t enjoy, and kind of snapped me out of paying attention to her. Something I really didn’t enjoy was actually the music. I thought it was performed well overall by the actors and orchestra pit, but the key that the songs were in and the notes that they hit weren’t pleasing for me to listen to, to begin with.
For someone who went into this play open-minded and honestly excited, I left feeling disappointed and confused. I didn’t know what the play was about before it started, and I left almost feeling like I knew less than I did before the play even began. For someone who enjoys musicals and plays, I didn’t enjoy a single song performed and was quite frankly counting down the minutes. The cast did fine at portraying the characters and singing, but I never got connected to any of them, and I never really got sucked in to the play. If I had to rate this musical I’d give it a 3 out of 10 because the only three things that I really enjoyed were Maxwell’s performance, the character of Amy, and the backdrop.