Robert approaches his 35th birthday with nagging doubts. A surprise birthday party thrown by his friends only unsettles him more. They're all married and Bobby is still single, albeit juggling three girlfriends. When the moment comes to blow out the candles and make a wish, he realizes he can't think of a single thing he wants. That realization sends him into an existential tailspin of doubt and uncertainty: What is he doing with his life?
Stephen Sondheim's lauded musical Company is about a man coming to terms with his inability to connect emotionally with women, and himself. It has a complex, dense score that constantly surprises with its vigor, and a non-linear plot that circles back to the opening birthday party and Bobby coming face-to-face with his own misgivings. It's not an easy show to mount, but director Doug Finlayson's staging for Insight Theatre Company mostly meets the challenge. If it seems a bit dated for reasons you can't quite identify (it was written in 1970), that's through no fault of the cast, which is excellent.
That includes Martin Fox's Bobby, who is both brash and wounded, going from enjoying another boisterous dinner with friends to quiet misgivings about his persistent status as a third wheel. But every time his friends push him to consider getting married, or attempt to set him up with a nice girl, he questions them about their own marriages.
Phil Levelling and Meghan Baker also do great work as Harry and Sarah, who snipe at each other passive-aggressively before breaking out into a brawl triggered by Harry's doubts about the efficacy of Sarah's karate classes (Sarah wins, three falls to two). Any ambiguity about the nature of their relationship is further muddied by the song "Sorry-Grateful," which argues that marriage is a series of compromises, regrets and comforts.
Bobby's own relationships are just as fraught with tension. April (Bailey Reeves) is a dim but kind-hearted flight attendant; Kathy (Melissa Gerth) is a Cape Cod native who plans to move back home; and Marta (Samantha Irene) is a transplant to the city who believes only she knows the authentic New York.
We first meet them as a group, serenading Bobby with the upbeat "You Could Drive a Person Crazy." It's a terrific song, but their voices are muddled and the lyrics are difficult to make out. This is a recurring problem throughout the show, with many of the actresses' vocals almost indiscernible. There were occasional problems with microphones dropping out as well, but I'm not sure the two issues are related.
Margery and Peter Pack's set is an impressive, multi-level affair with balconies, ramps and several well-hidden staircases. Somewhere inside it or behind it is the band, ably led by Catherine Edwards Kopff.
Laurie McConnell brings down the house with her primal performance of "The Ladies Who Lunch," both a tribute to and indictment of the vacuous lives of the aging Sex and the City brunch crowd. McConnell's Joanne has been married several times, drinks heavily and perhaps fears she's heading toward the same territory. McConnell brings everything she has to the performance, moving from resentment to forgiveness. It's a lesson Bobby has to learn before he can move on with his life.
But does he learn it? The show ends with a return to the surprise party, only this time Bobby doesn't show up. While his friends debate how much longer to wait for him, Bobby sings "Being Alive," which sounds dated and overwrought. Bobby asks for someone to "Make me confused/mock me with praise./Let me be used/Vary my days." It's not so much a cry for love as it is a plea for a someone to share the misery of his company.