Arts » Performing Arts

Plus, choosing the Company you keep

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At just before 9:55 p.m. last Saturday evening, I snuck a look at my watch during Act 2 of Stephen Sondheim's Company, now inaugurating CPCC Summer Theatre's 36th season. Now that's so unusual for me that my wife Sue noticed and was curious about my explanation. Quite simple, really: I wanted to make a special note of when Max Korn, in the lead as Robert, registered his first authentically human moment.

Robert -- or Bobby, baby -- is at the center of a circle that includes five couples, ranging from on-the-precipice of marriage to happily divorced, and three girlfriends. All 13 of them adore Bobby and care about his happiness, so there should be a lot of high-wattage adorability to go around.

Yet from the beginning, Korn is strangely inert, and so is the production around him. Tempos from musical director Drina Keen are sluggish, both in the opening "Company" anthem and in the climactic "Being Alive," which really isn't. Energy from the fine supporting cast is slow to ignite, and Eddie Mabry, best known for his choreography, surprisingly fails to move people around as stage director. Aware of the great height and width of the Halton Theater, Mabry spaces his cast well enough across a fine two-storey set by Robert Croghan. Once deployed, they're mostly stationary, underlining the hard truth that Company is a small-scale musical on a large stage.

Susan Cherin Gundersheim and Adam Morse get Billy's odyssey of self-realization off to a decent start, primarily because Sarah is showing off her martial arts skills against her husband Harry. When action isn't compulsory, for the blithely divorcing Susan and Peter, Courtney Markowitz and Matt Keffer must contrive to be dynamic on a second-story ledge. The square-hip marriage of Jenny and David has some extravagant possibilities for movement, but Mabry has Amy Van Looy and Deonte Warren mostly recumbent as he gets her high on pot.

Energy peaks late in Act 1 as Amy and Paul, played by Bonnie Bower and Sean Watkins, fuss over whether they're really "Getting Married Today," and Kathryn Stamas as the rapacious Joanne gobbles up the spotlight -- and just a swatch or two of scenery -- in "The Ladies Who Lunch," turning Korn's "Being Alive" into an anticlimax.

Morse, Warren and Vito Abate (as Joanne's subservient husband) team up for another highlight, "Sorry-Grateful," while the girlfriends -- Sasha Morfaw, Emily Hunter, and Elizabeth Burton -- shine brightest in "You Could Drive a Person Crazy." Here again, Keen needs to push the tempo closer to New York City neurosis.

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