Stephen Sondheim’s Company

| November 13, 2012

Neil Patrick Harris (CBS’s How I Met Your Mother) leads an all-star cast including Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report), Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), and Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men).  Harris plays Robert, a bachelor surrounded by married friends, and as he turns 35, Robert begins to think about marriage and why he isn’t married yet.  He’s never been opposed to the idea, but he’s also never actively pursued it.  The play takes place over the course of two years, in which we see many scenes between Robert and a couple of his married friends.  They smoke pot, or talk about how no one in New York ever actually uses their balcony, or practice Karate, and all the while discussing the highs and lows of marriage.

The cast here is terrific.  In fact, some of the casting is pretty ironic.  Robert’s story in many ways resembles that of Ted Mosby on How I Met Your Mother, so it’s interesting to see Neil Patrick Harris embody this tortured, lovelorn man searching for a wife.  It really demonstrates Harris’s range as an actor, and might be a pleasant surprise to those people out there who are only familiar with his portrayal of the womanizing Barney Stinson on TV.

Other notable performances come from Stephen Colbert and Christina Hendricks.  It’s interesting to me to see Colbert do something outside of The Colbert Report.  He’s been playing that right wing parody of himself for so long that it’s sometimes hard to remember that he’s just a really talented actor.  Here, Colbert plays a rather beaten man; an alcoholic who is struggling to find a reason to stay with his wife (Martha Plimpton; Fox’s Raising Hope) other than it’s convenient.  There is no trace of the “Colbert Character” in this performance and it’s really nice to see him do something completely different than his body of work thus far.

Christina Hendricks also moves outside of her comfort zone on this one.  On shows like Mad Men and Joss Whedon’s Firefly, she always plays strong, wickedly smart characters, but her portrayal of the idiotic, sweet airline stewardess, April, here is fantastic.  It’s a small role, and she shares her stage time with the two other women Robert is dating, but Hendricks shines for the brief moments she’s on stage.

My big criticism of the show is that I wasn’t such a fan of the music.  The play utilizes non-realistic elements and meta-theatricality, so it’s not ridiculous that this story would be a musical, but the music here just isn’t compelling or catchy to me.  It feels more like stock music or even an obligatory element of the story.  The one song I did really like comes late in the first act.  Amy (Katie Finneran) is singing about how she’s not going to get married.  It’s funny and sad all at the same time and a really well-written piece.  It also utilizes the aforementioned meta-theatricality.  The way this production of Company is staged, the orchestra and the conductor are not down in some pit or off in the wings.  They are on stage, right in the middle of the action.  Well, in the background of the action.  So, when Amy is singing about not getting married and she wants the song to stop but it won’t, it’s really funny to have her march over to the conductor, take his wand, and break it over her knee.  Later in the play, Robert is showing April around his apartment and she compliments a piece of art on his wall, which is the back of the conductor.  These meta elements are few and far between, which is a relief because I tend to not like a play referencing its own theatricality, but this one only does it these couple of times and it’s a real crowd pleaser.

No special features on the dvd.

Available now on Blu-ray and DVD from Image Entertainment.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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