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Magic Circle makes good ‘Company’

Local theater takes on love and marriage in Sondheim musical
By: Paul Cambra The Press-Tribune
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Everyone knows a “Robert,” that single friend you can’t wait to see hook up with the right girl, and when I say right I mean one that passes the friend’s approval. In the case of the lead character in “Company,” the Magic Circle’s production of the Stephen Sondheim play, Robert is perfectly happy juggling three girlfriends as the prototypical single bachelor living large in New York City. That is, until his 35th birthday, when his friends – five married or soon-to-be-married couples – convince him otherwise. In a play without a discernable plot, Robert hops from one couple’s home to the next, providing the evening’s company over dinner, drinks and then some, and witnesses first hand the various dynamics of married life. Never a third wheel by any means, Robert is obviously very fond of his friends and they seem to treasure his company, or at least the opportunity to bombard him with questions about his single state. With music and lyircs by Sondheim (“Sweeney Tood,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “West Side Story”) and based on a book by George Furth, this 1970 musical translates well to the Tower’s small stage, where simple props and the circular setup keeps the actors flowing from one vignette to the next. Dan Masden lends an affable quality to Robert, the guy you wouldn’t mind setting up with someone you know. Of course, the two genders go about this in two different ways. In the song “Poor Baby,” the five women friends lament his obvious loneliness and his need for meaningful companionship, while “Have I Got a Girl For You” finds his male friends living vicariously through their single pal. But Robert does not want to be nurtured nor to be the envy of his pals. And he’s not opposed to marriage at all, at least on the conditional basis he lays out in the number “Marry Me a Little.” His girlfriends run the gamut from the outgoing Marta to out-of-place Kathy to the out-of-town April. The one thing they all agree on in regard to their commitment-shy boyfriend is that “You Could Drive a Person Crazy.” The cast is a marvelous collection of familiar faces and a few new ones (including Masden). Rosemarie Gerould takes on directing duties and does a fine job marshaling the actors’ talents for song, dance and, yes, kazoo playing. Eric Bellah handles the musical direction, with choreography by Stephen Hatcher. As Robert moves from home to home, he gets a front-row seat to a friendly fight – both verbal and physical, a lesson in proper divorce etiquette, some pre-nuptial cold feet, and is propositioned – from both sides of the fence no less. He learns it’s “The Little Things You Do Together” that make a relationship work and that “Sorry – Grateful” is the best explanation of marriage the men can come up with. “Company” takes the audience on an enjoyable visit into the lives of 10 married people and four single ones.You’ll certainly recognize some folks you know in these characters, maybe even yourself. The play doesn’t strive to be too deep or complicated, just comfortable. And that’s the best you could ask for when it comes to company.