Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Souls Bared

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Souls Bared

Article excerpt

Tennessee Rep offered a largely timeless Company

In a production opening on March 22, 2014, (Stephen Sondheim's 84th birthday) and running until April 12, Tennessee Repertory Theatre in Nashville gave audiences a staging of Sondheim and George Furth's Company in which, to paraphrase a familiar lyric from the show's title number, thoughts were shared and souls were bared.

Producing Artistic Director René D. Copeland, who staged the show, and her colleagues (including some whose career contributions span the troupe's nearly 30-year history) provided ample energy and talent to their largely timeless take on the 1970 musical. The plotless, nonlinear look at marital mores has emotional depth when lines from Furth's witty and perceptive book and Sondheim's revealing lyrics are delivered by top-flight actors.

Gary C. Hoff's multilevel set and Phillip Franck's colorful and dynamic lighting combined to create the simple motif of a "festive bar." That term is not meant as either a reductive or dismissive description, since their well-planned and beautifully executed designs set the show's tone. Paper lanterns, a long bar with red-topped stools, a small red couch on wheels (similar to those used in the 2011 New York Philharmonic concert presentation) and matching red tables often bathed in blue, red, orange and purple hues conjured an urbane essence; large faux windows on both sides of the theatre contained images of such Big Apple landmarks as the Chrysler Building and Grand Central Station, emphasizing that New York City is also a character in Company.

In the program notes, Copeland says Tennessee Rep had "chosen to present this show-in a timeless way ... that doesn't pretend to be realistic but rather celebrates the show's inherently theatrical nature." Copeland, Hoff, Franck and costume designer Trish Clark essentially succeeded in accomplishing that goal.

Perhaps the only flaw came in sightlines for those seated close to the stage and/or on the house left or right sides of the grandstand seating section. There were times in numbers such as the exuberant opening when it wasn't possible to see several actors, while others had their backs to some audience members. However, there probably isn't a perfect way to have a large cast occupy a raised playing space in the Tennessee Performing Arts Center's intimate black-box Johnson Theater.

This production's 14 performers produced well-defined characterizations using sung and spoken words, actions, reactions and Pam Atha's fun-loving choreography. …

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