Stephen Sondheim’s groundbreaking musical is given an energetic, youthful interpretation by the theater department at Moorpark College in a straightforward, intimate production showcasing the promise of a diverse cast of young performers.
Chris Thume and Thomas Hollow alternate performances as Bobby, the about-to-be 35-year-old bachelor protagonist of the show, as he is celebrated and berated by his friends and their partners at his birthday gathering. At Saturday evening’s performance last weekend, it was Thomas Hollow’s Bobby who was a bright, optimistic Manhattanite, defiant in the face of his friends’ attempts to find him a proper wife. Hollow’s strong presence and notable charisma made it easy to understand why five couples and three girlfriends orbit him constantly, though at times he seemed more the casual observer of events than a key participant.
Gathered to celebrate his 35th birthday, Bobby’s friends and their relationships are revealed through a series of vignettes. There’s Harry (a likable, silky-voiced Adrews Purwadi) and Sarah (Kate Roach in the evening’s best acting performance), who taunt and cajole each other in a love-hate-love duet ending in sparring, both verbal and physical. Bobby visits with Dave (a dapper Evan Smith) and Jenny (Mary Mars) as they expand their horizons and show Bobby a looser side. Peter (Johan Karlsson as a likable open-minded man of the 1970s) and Susan (Hillary Lefkowitz) share news with Robert that sends him reeling, while longtime partners Paul (a serviceable Jeremy Ryan on nights that Hollow performs as Bobby) and Amy (Nichole Whitter and Katarina Ritter in alternating performances) contemplate finally tying the knot. Larry (a sweet Joenhel Vince) and Joanne (a brazen Shandar Robinson) serve as the younger couples’ foils, providing Bobby a perspective from the other side of failed relationships.
As Bobby tries to balance his friends’ demands, he dabbles also with three different possible mates. April (cheerily and believably brought to life by Sophia Paden) is the stereotypical flight attendant with long legs and a short intellect, Kathy (Allie Yanetti in full flower-power mode) is the on-again off-again woman who may be the one who got away, and Marta (a feisty and vivacious Maia DeVillers) is Bobby’s New York alter ego, relishing the diversity of life in New York even as Bobby fights to contain it.
Company is a complex, mature musical dealing with the realities of marriage and the nuances of adult relationships. Here, the sophistication of the score and the vocal demands, coupled with the subtlety of acting required, sometimes prove too much for this cast to handle. The night’s music was listenable, but at times performers were vocally stressed and overmatched. The staging, sparse and mostly effective, occasionally resulted in confusing gaps in an already nonlinear narrative. And as the night ends, we are left feeling these performers may not yet fully understand the material they’ve just presented, along with the wistful knowledge that they will, but hopefully not too soon.
Company, through Aug. 3 at Moorpark College Performing Arts Center, Moorpark. For more information, call 378-1485.