Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Kinder and Gentler

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Kinder and Gentler

Article excerpt

Company's couples move to the suburbs

A marquee outside of the community auditorium of the Chicago suburb Palatine listed its current production along with two upcoming ones: The Sound of Music, Joseph ... and Company. Given that the film version of Sweeney Todd was playing at the same time in multiplexes all around the United States, maybe that shouldn't have been such a shock. Company is nearly 38 years old, after all. Is it about time to acknowledge it as a standard rather than an edgy, offbeat piece?

Morra Miller-Priess, who directed Company for the non-professional LZP Productions in January 2008, thinks the show is still edgy, but acknowledged that a number of subscribers were familiar. "I had people telling me they'd seen the original production on Broad-way," she says. Despite the script's occasional profanity and sexual content, "Only one person complained about the swearing."

Certainly the piece ought to have resonance for a big-city suburb in which well over half of the adults are currently married, according to the 2006 estimates of the U.S. Census Bureau. Even if there aren't a bunch of eligible bachelors like Company's Robert in town, Miller-Priess finds the piece to be more about the couples anyway. "Robert doesn't initiate any of the action," she explains. "He reacts to the things they do."

Her company delivered a capable and smart production for audiences, and though the cast was entirely unpaid, performances would compare favorably to many of the professional non-Equity companies in Chicago. Especially impressive were Carrie L. Dabelow, Julie Koerner and Heather Scurtu as girlfriends Marta, Kathy and April.

Miller-Priess clearly has a lot of affection for the piece and the characters. "They care a lot about Robert and each other," she says. She reflected this perspective in a performance that, while perhaps a more popular approach to the piece, was in marked contrast to the take given by director John Doyle in his 2007 Tony Award-winning revival. Many found that approach cold. Miller-Priess's husband, Ken, played Bobby as a likable, uncomplicated man who genuinely cares for his friends. From the opening scene, in which Bobby listens to voice mails from his friends, rather than seeming bored by their messages (the typical interpretation of the scene), he was amused.

"Furth lets you interpret his characters," Miller-Priess explains. …

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