Pittsburgh Public Theater’s production of ‘Company’ is a witty experience |
Theater & Arts

Pittsburgh Public Theater’s production of ‘Company’ is a witty experience

Pittsburgh Public Theater
A scene from Pittsburgh Public Theater's production of 'Company.'

To outsiders, other people’s marriages are often baffling: What does she see in him? Why do they stay together? Why would anyone do this?

Guess what: Those marriages are often equally unfathomable to the couples themselves.

In 1970, Stephen Sondheim and George Furth took a wry, articulate and often funny look at the mysteries of marriage with the musical “Company.”

Forty-four years later, it still resonates with audiences, especially when given a thoroughly updated, entertaining and polished production such as the one Ted Pappas has staged for Pittsburgh Public Theater.

Producer and director Harold Prince based the original musical on Furth’s 11 playlets about 11 New York marriages.

The musical begins on Robert’s 35th birthday as five urban, affluent couples who are his closest friends throw him a surprise birthday party.

Asked when he’s going to settle down and get married, Robert says he wants to get married, longs to be married, can’t explain why he isn’t married.

What follows is not a progressive plot but a succession of vignettes as Robert spends time with each couple and the three girls that he’s dating.

Pappas, who directed and choreographed the production, has gently nudged the show into the 21st century with the help of scenic designer James Noone, projection designer Larry Shea, lighting designer Phil Monat and costume designer Martha Bromelmeier.

The huge cast of 14 creates vivid, individual characters, does justice to Sondheim’s score and glides its way through Pappas’ simple, but appealing choreography.

At points in the show, Noone’s chic, contemporary gray and silver bi-level set becomes a backdrop for Shea’s fast-forward views of Manhattan skyscrapers, uptown apartment buildings and streets filled with whizzing vehicles and fast-moving pedestrians.

The score explores the high and low points of relationships — the couples’ long-standing ones and Robert’s more ambivalent forays with some of Sondheim’s most celebrated songs.

In addition to the show’s title song, you’re treated to Judy Blazer’s Joanne toasting “The Ladies Who Lunch,” Hannah Shankman’s high speed, well-enunciated “Another Hundred People,” the spirited ensemble renditions of “The Little Things You Do Together” and “Side by Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You.” Three husbands played by Benjamin Howes, Daniel Krell and Darren Eliker render what’s possibly the best song ever written about the push-pull of marriage — “Sorry-Grateful.”

But women will relate to it just as strongly.

As the show progresses, Robert’s eagerness for a relationship seems to increase.

Jim Stanek’s Robert showcases that desire eloquently and tunefully as his momentum builds from the first-act closer “Marry Me a Little” to the emotional urgency of “Being Alive” at the show’s end.

So exactly what is stopping Robert from making the leap?

Many possibilities are hinted at:

He’s definitely not gay, at least in this production, says Pappas.

It could be the women Robert dates.

Shankman’s Marta, Lee Harrington’s Kathy and Lara Hayhurst’s April are all — through no fault of their own — portrayed as pretty and vivacious but shallow and silly.

He may be looking for the impossible: Someone who combines the best features of all the women he knows, as Robert implies in “Someone Is Waiting.”

Or, maybe the problem is Manhattan itself.

In a city with so many choices, Robert may be stalled by the unending supply of new faces and personalities yet to be experienced.

We’ll never know.

The show ends without supplying a conclusion, leaving it up to the audience members to supply the answer.

But that doesn’t keep it from being a witty, thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining theater experience.

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.