Theater Latte Da has staged a lovely revival of Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 Tony-winning Company that entertains and mystifies, in a good way. George Furth’s script centers on Bobby (Dieter Bierbrauer), a dashing dreamboat of an unmarried man in his mid-30s. Yet Bobby, who weighs the pros and cons of whether ‘to be or not to be’ married, cannot find the right woman. What I found intriguing is that the show has him always visiting and connecting with married couples whose happiness levels different audience members will determine differently. Are these other couples who are so concerned about him really happy themselves or maintaining a delusion? You decide.
Moreover, Bobby seems to be clearly heterosexual, available, and well-adjusted, so there’s no angst-driven closet case subtext. In fact, there actually seems to be very little subtext to him. He’s pure innocent male energy and Bierbrauer captures this wonderfully. To point: Sondheim and Furth don’t let us reflex into pat psychological explanations of what’s ‘wrong’ with him.
Director Peter Rothstein’s entire ensemble is terrific. Heidi Bakke is a zany delight as an airline hostess reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe. Her bed scene with Bierbrauer is simultaneoulsy erotic and funny. With Larry, Jim Pounds nicely delivers an urbane take on the middle-aged man who has wisely cut his emotional losses and decided to let it all hang out. Don’t let getting older get in the way of enjoying life. Indeed, this is one of this musical’s messages.
Jody Briskey, as Larry’s boozy wife, Joanne, is quite blunt and appropriately inappropriate when she makes the moves on Bobby. With one of Company’s signature tunes, The Ladies Who Lunch, Briskey is a glorious powerhouse of bitterness, defiance, pride and unquenchable passion. It will take your breath away. As will Bierbrauer’s rendition of the show’s other signature tune, Being Alive. In this song he delineates the contradictions of what it is to be in love. Bierbrauer’s beautiful voice alone could make the tune soar, but his sensitive interpretation of the lyrics take it to the level of sublimity.
Jerry Rubino’s music direction embodies the Sondheim sound and style perfectly. Michael Matthew Ferrell’s choreography charms. Tom Mays’s scenic design is pleasingly spare and his lighting design often uses vibrant color and birthday candle imagery to enhance the show’s bouncy vitality. This vitality is crucial as Sondheim and Furth want us to laugh at our expectations of what and how we think coupling should be. This production definitely makes us do that.
Through Nov. 18
Ordway McKnight Theatre, 345 Washington St., St. Paul