June 13, 2013 | by Patrick Folliard
Time to settle down?
Sherri L. Edelen, The Ladies Who Lunch, Thomas Adrian Simpson, Matthew Scott, Signature, Company

Sherri L. Edelen, center, sings the classic ‘The Ladies Who Lunch,’ with costars Thomas Adrian Simpson, left, and Matthew Scott. Signature’s ‘Company’ production runs through the end of June. (Photo by Scott Suchman, courtesy Signature)

‘Company’
Through June 30
Signature Theatre
4200 Campbell Avenue
Arlington, VA
$30-$100
703-820-9771
signature-theatre.org

“Company’s” marriage-phobic Robert (better known as Bobby) is turning 35. As he slides into middle age, maybe it’s time for the perennial party boy to get serious? His married friends certainly think so. His girlfriends would appreciate a little commitment. But Bobby isn’t quite there yet.

A string of relationship-themed vignettes surrounded by out composer Stephen Sondheim’s outrageously dazzling score, “Company” premiered in 1970. Today, George Furth’s book can feel a tad dated, but in Signature Theatre’s solid production staged by Eric Schaeffer, the show’s irony and focus on loneliness and inability to commit remain as strong as ever.

Bobby (Matthew Scott) likes a laugh and a smart cocktail. He keeps things on the surface. His social circle is comprised of five couples. And while they adore their single friend, they really want Bobby to be hitched too, and tell him so repeatedly. As Bobby makes the rounds to his pals’ respective Manhattan flats on the eve of his birthday, he (and us) get a glimpse into the lives of couples at different stages of married life: the about-to-be married, the recently married, the longtime married and the often married. They insist he needs what they have, explained musically with “The Little Things You Do Together.” And still, Bobby’s not biting.

A trio of his latest girlfriends gripes about Bobby’s inability to commit in a terrific version of “You Could Drive a Person Crazy.” Bobby remains unfazed.

Neither the play nor the production ever really clarifies just why Bobby is so loath to commit. It’s been suggested that he’s gay. In a scene with the recently divorced, newly bisexual Peter (Bobby Smith), Bobby admits that he’s had more than one homosexual experience but makes it clear that he’s not gay, dismissing Peter’s advances as a joke.

Standouts in a talented cast include real life couple Erin Driscoll and James Gardiner who play husband and wife David and Jenny. She enjoys getting stoned. He likes to believe she’s squarer than she is. As boozy, acerbic Joanne (the part famously created by the legendary Elaine Stritch), Sherri L. Edelin gives a ferocious rendition of “The Ladies Who Lunch.” And Eric Weaver is a hoot as the highly nervous bride-to-be Amy who sings Sondheim’s often sung patter song “Getting Married Today.”

The show’s best moments include Bobby’s dim stewardess date April (Madeline Botteri) singing “Barcelona,” that wistful ode to the one-night-stand; and another girlfriend Marta (Carolyn Cole), a young Bohemian besotted with New York’s diversity, expressing her love for the Big Apple with “Another Hundred People.”

As Bobby, Matthew Scott brings a gorgeous voice and good looks to the role. He also affectively makes the transition from a sort of charming social automation to an actual feeling person. As the show unfolds, he becomes increasingly agitated and aware that something is lacking in his world. Ultimately he comes to life with an emotionally jarring version of “Being Alive.”

New York City figures prominently in “Company.” Rather appropriately, Daniel Conway’s set is sleek — all steel and glass like a skyscraper, and Frank Labovitz’s costumes are mostly gray. Despite some mod dresses and a few projected images of late model cars, the production doesn’t feel particularly moored to a specific year. It’s just a 30-something man experiencing life, loneliness and sex in the city (with great music). And that’s timeless.

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