Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's 1970 musical about marriage, Company, is a product of its times. As an affable bachelor, Robert, moves through his 36th year in a blur of dinner parties with married friends and dates with women whom he doesn't care that much about, clichés abound: The wives are crazy and spend their time making gossip; the husbands are dumb and spend their time making dirty jokes.
The American domestic sitcom was built on such stuff.
Offering alternately funny, touching or bittersweet snapshots of a bunch of marital relationships, the emotional content of Company is in many ways timeless. Sondheim and Furth's songs, like "The Little Things You Do Together" and "Sorry-Grateful," repeatedly bring out the crazy-making paradox of feelings people have for one another when they're in it for the long haul.
Director Susi Damilano's entertaining production for SF Playhouse, performed with precision and gusto by an endearing ensemble cast, certainly draws out the complexities of these human relationships throughout. Monique Hafen gives a particularly standout performance as the batty, soon-to-be-wed Amy. Hafen reels off the anxiety-choked lyrics of her character's big number, "Getting Married Today," with frayed brilliance, her small frame flailing jaggedly at the thought of having to walk down the aisle. Against Bill English and Jacquelyn Scott's stark, scaffolding-heavy set, this young woman's pre-nuptial psychotic break feels like she's heading to the gallows rather than to a wedding party. The actress's comic timing is impeccable.
Aided by joyous live music provided by a pair of pianists who toss Sondheim's playful phrases back and forth while seated at matching baby grand pianos on either side of the stage, Damilano's fluid mise-en-scene seamlessly connects Sondheim and Furth's plotless vignettes. As a result, the whole show possesses an effortless swing.