Two is company, three is a crowd.
In this circumstance, you’ll want to be a part of the crowd; the crowd that’s viewing Cleveland State University’s “Company.”
The musical comedy follows New Yorker Robert (Frank Ivancic) and his group of friends, all of whom are married couples. Through an unfolding of short vignettes, Robert visits each couple while questioning his status as a bachelor, and whether he is suited for marriage.
With a book by George Furth and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, “Company” opened on Broadway in 1970, where it won six Tony awards. It has since undergone multiple revivals. Now under the direction of Russ Borski, Cleveland State University’s Department of Theatre and Dance presents “Company” with a modern twist by setting the show in present day.
Borski and his talented cast have made the complex harmonies and intricate rhyming of Sondheim accessible. And not only is it accessible, but thanks to its modern setting, relatable. As Robert struggles to find balance within his personal life, many audience members will draw parallels from the show to their own lives.
This relatability is also possible because of Ivancic’s charming nature. Robert is usually portrayed as an icy individual, but Ivancic’s Robert is lovable and sweet, deriving immediate empathy from the audience. He sings “Marry Me a Little” and “Being Alive” with such passion and intensity. They are practically show-stopping.
But what would Robert be without his friends? Luckily, the majority of Borski’s cast matches Ivancic’s musical and acting prowess.
Sarah Blubaugh as Amy is hilarious as she frantically informs the audience of her reluctance to get married. Blubaugh’s lightning-quick recitation is remarkable and her fiancé, Paul (Antonio DeJesus), complements her with an incredible voice of his own.
David (Eric Wloszek) and his wife Jenny (Machala Comenschek) are both delightful when they experiment with Robert’s marijuana. Alexa Fatheringham is great as bizarre girlfriend Martha while couple Peter (Malik Jones) and Susan (Brooke Myers) have a great rapport.
Joanne (the silver-throated Cheyenne Bizon) is sophisticated, condescending and sadistic. Bizon’s incredible voice dominates during “Little Things You Do Together” and “Ladies Who Lunch.”
While the majority of the songs swell into life naturally, “Sorry-Grateful” is the unfortunate exception. The leader of the number, Steven Livingston as Harry, feels as if he is not yet as comfortable in his character as the cast surrounding him, a problem that may be corrected with more performances.
A few other notable cast members include Elizabeth Samsa as the dim-witted April, Chace Coulter as the kind Larry and Elizabeth Stewart as the karate-enthusiast Sarah.
Costume designer Terry Pieritz dresses the characters in everyday clothing, from suits and dresses to leggings and lose tops. Doubling as scenic designer, Borski has crafted a super sleek, New York inspired set. A railed balcony passes above the mainstage, backed by semi-translucent glass paneling. The tall glass is lit with streaks of vibrant greens, oranges and purples by lighting designer Dennis Dugan.
Behind the panels, silhouettes of cast members waiting to enter the stage can be seen along with a complementing orchestra under the stellar musical direction of Maria DiDonato.
Do yourself a favor and make sure you are in the company of this production.
When: Through Nov. 5th
Where: Allen Theatre, 1407 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
Tickets: $10, call 866-546-1353 or visit www.playhousesquare.org.
Featured photo caption: Frank Ivancic as Robert (center) surrounded by six of his friends. Photo courtesy of Steve Wagner.
Enjoy this review? Make sure you read Gwen’s review of The Diary of Anne Frank!