Good things get better
Bad get worse
Wait, I think I meant that in reverse
Voice messages sound in a lonely apartment. Robert is turning 35. “Happy birthday,” intone his friends. “You don’t look it.”
In “Company,” Stephen Sondheim examines the nature of marriage and commitment through the eyes of an aging urbanite lothario — the last dangerously unattached member of his social circle.
“Bobby is a serial-dating man-boy,” said Annamaria Pileggi, professor of the practice in the Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. She is directing the musical Oct. 9-18 in Edison Theatre.
“He’s dating three women but can’t seem to find the right one. He’s in a state of limbo. So he spends the majority of his free time with his married friends.
“He’s always the third wheel.”
Written by George Furth, with music and lyrics by Sondheim, the Tony Award-winning “Company” debuted in 1970 and helped define what has since become known as the concept musical.
“This was Sondheim’s breakout,” Pileggi said. “He’d done ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Gypsy,’ but ‘Company’ really changed how we look at musical theater. It’s a thematic piece, rather than something driven by a clear narrative. It’s a collage of fragmented experiences.”
The story unfolds in a series of vignettes that depict Bobby interacting with five married couples, each modeling a different sort of relationship.
“Harry and Sarah are constantly one-upping one another,” Pileggi said. “He’s always on the wagon, she’s always on a diet — but of course she sneaks brownies and he sneaks drinks. They’re competitive, sniping. They keep secrets from one another.
“David and Jenny are very conservative,” Pileggi continued. “He’s controlling, she acquiesces.” Susan and Peter are happily divorced. Joanne is alcoholic and unfaithful but Larry, her husband, loves her and turns a blind eye. Amy and Paul, the youngest couple, are about to be married, though Amy suffers cold feet.
“Each scene shows us some problem, some way in which the relationship is flawed,” Pileggi explained. “We see people in varying states of flux and disillusionment. But as the play progresses, what Bobby — and hopefully the audience — comes to realize is that the attempt is all.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship,” Pileggi concluded. “We’re all flawed, we’re all trying to find connection. A relationship isn’t a static thing — it’s a process. You just hope that love outweighs the disappointments.
“As Harry says, ‘You’re always sorry and you’re always grateful.’”
Cast and crew
Henry Cummings as Bobby leads the cast of 14. McKenna Rogan and Alex Felder are Sarah and Harry. Talia Reich and Brandon Krisko are Susan and Peter.
Allie Hough and Joey Flihan are Jenny and David. Julia Zasso and Nathan Wetter are Amy and Paul. Jamie Zack and Zack Schultz are Joanne and Larry.
Rounding out the cast are Hannah Marias, Katie Greenberg and Michelle Schrier as Bobby’s girlfriends, April, Marta and Kathy.
Set design is by senior lecturer Rob Morgan. Costumes are by Bonnie Kruger, professor of the practice in drama. Lighting is by senior lecturer Sean Savoie. Sound is by Casey Hunter.
Choreographer is Christine Knoblauch-O’Neal, professor of the practice in dance. Fight choreographer is Erik Kuhn. Musical director is Henry Palkes.
Assistant director is Robert M. Kapeller. Technical director is Mike Loui. Stage manager is Abby Mros, with assistance from Zach Hyams and Savannah Throop. Dramaturg is Danee Conley. Props master is Emily Frei.
“Company” begins at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9 and 10; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11. Performances then continue the following weekend, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 16 and 17; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18.
Performances take place in Edison Theatre, located in Mallinckrodt Center, 6465 Forsyth Blvd. Tickets are $15, or $10 for students, seniors and Washington University faculty and staff, and are available through the Edison Theatre Box Office.
For more information, call (314) 935-6543 or visit pad.artsci.wustl.edu.