Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Review of Company at Venus Cabaret Theater at Mercury Theater Chicago

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Company. The music and lyrics were by Stephen Sondheim and the book was by George Furth. Orchestrations were by Jonathan Tunick. It was directed by L. Walter Stearns. The music director was Eugene Dizon and the choreographer was Aubrey Adams. It was about a man named Robert (David Sajewich) and it was his birthday and all of his married friends showed up. Robert is perpetually single and all his friends are trying to set him up with different people. The show is basically jumping through different moments in his life with his married friends and his various girlfriends. It is about being single in your thirties, marriage, and the different types of love that are in a person's life. I think this is a really well performed show and I loved the music and the character relationships.

One of my favorite comedic moments was April (Allison Sill), Marta (Kyrie Courter), and Kathy (Kiersten Frumkin), who are Robert's three girlfriends throughout the show, singing "You Could Drive a Person Crazy," which is basically about how Robert is a terrible boyfriend and wasn't present during their relationships. Robert is sitting there the entire time saying how he has dated plenty of women and how he is ready for marriage, but he doesn't seem very good at dating them, so how can he be ready to spend a lifetime this any one of them? That is what this whole musical is trying to figure out for Robert. The song is a very Andrews Sisters-esque love song, but then it turns out to be a song of dismissal. I really loved the choreography in this song; it was reenacting every kind of trouble they had had with him and making each reenactment slightly more brutal. This song reminds me of something that might be on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It is so funny and it is of a style that isn't necessarily in keeping with everything else in the show. It is not something you would immediately hear and say, "Oh! That's Sondheim!" They had this scale where Marta and Kathy would do a very normal scale note and then April would take it up and make this very high-pitched tweet. Everything in the song was like, "You are driving me crazy," and the scale was like the evolution of getting more and more crazy throughout the relationship.

I loved the song "Getting Married Today." It was sung by Amy (Jenna Coker-Jones), who was freaking out about her wedding to Paul (Greg Foster) that day. One of my favorite physical comedy moments was when she decided it was a completely rational idea to get away from her wedding by crawling along the bar. She was just trying to find any way to get out of the situation and the room. I loved the fast-paced rhythm of Amy's part of the song; it works really well with her natural state of being: high energy. It shows how this character's emotions are all taken to the next level. It is understandable that she is freaking out because no one is taking her seriously and she is "not well." If another character had had this song, it would have been harder to laugh at because you might have been worried about them. But Amy shows a hilarious contrast between acknowledging herself as acting insane but not seeing that her fears about her understanding husband are crazy. Also, the contrast of Susan's (Nicole Armold) angelic opera in the background was absolutely hilarious while also being beautiful.

Throughout the play you go through scenes, jumping throughout time it seems, looking at different memorable visits that Robert has had with his married friends. Harry (Frederick Harris) and Sarah (Nicole Cready) had some problems that they were trying to hide behind each other's backs. Harry had a drinking problem and Sarah was trying to diet, but they didn't want the other to see that they were doing what they said they wouldn't do. But they kind of saw the other person and didn't say anything because they didn't want the other person to see what they were doing. Robert catches on to all this and is worried for his friends. But that didn't mean this scene was free of humor. Harry and Sarah were having a karate fight. They were very into it and determined to win. Robert on the sidelines watching this thing unfold was quite funny. Peter (Derek Self) and Susan had a very strange relationship where they had to get divorced to be able to rekindle their relationship. A very sad scene in the play was when Peter, who clearly wanted to be with Robert, was sort of confessing his feelings to Robert very vaguely, but Robert doesn't take it seriously. I think it is particularly sad because you get to see Peter for a few seconds after it happens because Robert just walks away. You are mostly following Robert everywhere, so it is interesting that he leaves his audience behind for a second for the audience to see Peter's emotions after being rejected by Robert. In another scene, Robert hangs out with David (Ryan Stajmiger) and Jenny (Hannah Dawe) and they start smoking weed. And Jenny is not realizing how high she is and is talking really fast and can't stop. It was pretty hilarious how she reacted to the drug and then once she realized that she was high, she just seemed to get higher. She is such a sweet genuine person and seeing her lose her filter is hilarious. This scene does have some dark undertones of controlling marriage, which are heartbreaking but interesting.

People who would like this show are people who like marriage karate, the evolution of relationship craziness, and crawling away from your problems. I really loved this musical. It has great lyrics, great music, and it was performed very well in a new and interesting space. I look forward to seeing what they will do in the Venus Cabaret next.

Photos: Brett A. Beiner

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