Plano — The grass is always greener, it seems, on the other side of the city. In Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Company, directed for Brick Road Theatre by Linda Leonard, marriage is held up as an almost unattainable ideal—even for those who are already members of the grand institution.
And when you’re the one singleton in a group of well-meaning but smothering smug marrieds, well, that can cause a little bit of trouble. Add a healthy dose of co-dependent behavior and you have Robert (Jason Bias), a commitment-phobic man child who cherishes being a third wheel while yearning for a twosome that doesn’t make him want to run.
The show is comprised of a series of non-linear events all connecting to Bobby’s 35th birthday party. His coupled friends either bemoan his lack of a wife or hold him up as a bachelor ideal, counting on him to serve as the uncomfortable buffer in their relationship issues. Bobby’s dating prospects are as bleak as some of his friends’ marriages; his options are the sweet one who got away, the ditzy one who won’t go away, and the weird one he doesn’t quite get.
Bias has nice presence as the focal character, moving easily and naturally through scenes and dance numbers. He plays cagey well when Bobby is put in strange and stranger situations with dates and friends alike. His voice has a beautiful, rich tone that soars through the rafters, especially in his upper register, but suffers and flattens when mixed with too much emoting.
The performances from the supporting cast has its mixed moments. Much of the acting is a bit overdone, as musicals can so often be, and some of the actor couples just don’t gel together well. And of the three women in Bobby’s life, Bethany Lorentzen’s Kathy is the most believable and genuine. Danielle Estes plays April on the shrill side of ditzy, and Whitney Rosenbaum as Marta can carry a solo number but lacks solid chemistry with Bias.
Two bright spots are Janelle Lutz as Amy and Keith Warren as Paul, who look the most at ease with one another despite barely making it to the altar together. They are nicely showcased during the Act One number “Getting Married Today,” which really lets Lutz shine as a both a comedic actress and accomplished singer. She manages to make her neurotic bridal meltdown feel funny and charming while also striking the right emotional notes.
Andi Allen is bright and biting as Joanne, the thrice-married older friend of the group, swanning about with the knowing swagger of a woman who’s been there, done that, and tossed back the cocktail. Her rendition of “The Ladies Who Lunch,” one of the show’s powerhouse pieces immortalized by the likes of Elaine Stritch and Patti LuPone, is well-acted though sometimes too throaty and nasal.
Leonard’s choreography has some fun moments, especially in the second act’s big dance break, complete with canes and a little soft shoe. The staging can be jumbled with so many bodies on stage, but overall the set design is simple yet effective. In a smart directorial move, many scenes have actors clearing or setting the stage rather than technicians, allowing scenes to flow together more smoothly and with less visual interruption. That helps the vignettes feel more connected.
However, Gary James’ costume choices are a jumbled mix of decades and in some cases ill-fitting and unflattering, which is further highlighted by the fact that most characters never make any wardrobe changes. On stage at any given moment you have a mother-of-the-bride beaded gown next to leggings and a kimono.
Brick Road Theatre is a new company, staging Company as only its second show. Their home for the production is the Courtyard Theater in downtown Plano, a gem of a playhouse that’s perfect for a smaller troupe. It’s intimate and simple, but features like a projection screen for the ever-popular quick change backdrops add that extra bit of polish.
Although the space is nicely suited to the group, some problems stood out on opening night. The cast was pitchy and off tempo on more than one number, possibly due to the location of conductor and pianist Pam Holcomb-McLain and her three-piece ensemble along the back of the stage, behind most of the set. It’s hard for musicians to take any sort of cues from singers, or vice versa, when there is that much of a barrier between them. Microphone balance, volume, and quality were also off, with some that were too hot, some not hot enough, and some emitting screeching feedback.
These are kinks that can be worked out as a show settles into its run, but for a one-weekend-only production like this, they can take the quality down to a more amateur level. Hopefully this is something that Brick Road can overcome in its future as it sets its sights on becoming another staple in the bustling area theater scene.