April 15th, 2010

The Masquerade Theatre: Company

With two minutes to spare until showtime, we pull into the valet line at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts to reluctantly pay my fifteen dollars so that someone else may be in charge of my car for the next three hours. It wouldn’t be me if I weren’t (almost) running late. Saturday night’s big plan, The Masquerade Theatre’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, hasn’t started without me. At the very least, I’m punctual; at most, I’m making an entrance.

We’re directed to the right when we walk in. This is where I admit that I didn’t know there were two performance areas in the Hobby Center. Company is showing in Zilkha Hall not in the larger Sarofim Hall where on this night In the Heights has top billing.

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The first thing that strikes me is the fact that the seats are all odd (in the mathematics sense of the word). How… odd. After an initial glance at the tickets thinking that the theatre gods were trying to keep me and my companion from sitting next to each other we find our adjoined seats just before the head of The Masquerade Theatre’s board goes into her adulation of all the big money in the middle section who have contributed to the company’s success.

With much ado under our belts, the play opens. Unfortunately, the opening leads to microphones being turned on, leading to feedback, leading me to cringe a little bit. The feedback will be a constant throughout the production. This being opening night, you expect a miscue or two, but hopefully one that you can rectify during the intermission. One other sound mishap that left me wondering was the inability to hear the lead over the harmonizing parts in various songs throughout.

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Things are further exacerbated by a rowdy audience member whom during some dialogue about the sanctity (or lack thereof) of marriage takes it upon herself to yell out “sacrilege” not only once, but twice. I would use this as an opportunity to get on a soap box and speak on etiquette, however, I know you intelligent and respectful readers would never think to act so reprehensibly.

All of that being said, without the sound system or the audience getting in the way, the show flourishes. Comedy takes over as Robert, played by Luther Chakurian, tries to shirk his place in the wild world of monogamy as he turns 35 and remains unwed. With five sets of friends, happily and not so happily, married off he accepts their advice and learns from their example. Chakurian does a fantastic job acting as the exasperated, hopeless/helpless romantic of the role.

Company is a story that is easily relatable. The quirks represented in each of the five marriages are things that we’ve seen or participated in throughout our years. Sarah (Christine Zavakos) and Harry (Luke Wrobel) have an ultra-competitive relationship where they vie for superiority concerning issues from dieting and drinking to who can put a fist in their pants. Susan (Laura Gray) and Peter (Michael J. Ross) have a non-marriage marriage. David (Aicardo Rivera) married the square who tries to fit in, Jenny (Kristina Sullivan). Amy (Allison Sumrall) doesn’t want to wed – even though she really does – Paul (Adam Delka). The friends are rounded out by the strong, sadistic Joanne (Rebekah Dahl) and thick-skinned Larry (John Gremillion).

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The interaction between Robert and his friends desperately trying to set him up trumps the love rectangle he has with three girlfriends. Between the confident Marta (Libby Evans), disenchanted Kathy (Catherine Taylor), and just plain weird April (Michelle Macicek) it would seem that he would have the perfect swath of women from which to choose. But we all know that the life-long bachelor never faces an easy choice.

As with any Sondheim production, the writing is perfect and the music well-composed. The cast’s sense of timing and delivery do nothing but enhance what was already set to be good. Even with the troubles they faced on Saturday night, the actors carried on without blinking an eye or missing a line. Had it been me I would have been racing out into the seats and sound board to offer up my opinion on what exactly is sacriligious and how to work volume knobs. But that’s why they are the professionals and I only play one on the internet.

Company
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by George Firth

Director and Choreographer – Phillip K. Duggins
Musical Director – Michael J. Ross

Featuring:
Luther Chakurian (Robert)
Christine Zavakos (Sarah)
Luke Wrobel (Harry)
Laura Gray (Susan)
Michael J. Ross (Peter)
Kristina Sullivan (Jenny)
Aicardo Rivera (David)
Allison Sumrall (Amy)
Adam Delka (Paul)
Rebekah Dahl (Joanne)
John Gremillion (Larry)
Libby Evans (Marta)
Catherine Taylor (Kathy)
Michelle Macicek (April)

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