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Three’s company: Marriage, friendship and love at Lyric Stage

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Three’s company: Marriage, friendship and love at Lyric Stage
Actor John Ambrosino (center) and fellow cast members from “Company.” (Photo: Photo: Mark S. Howard)

In 1970, Stephen Sondheim created “Company,” a musical about a 35-year-old playboy looking for “the one.” More than four decades later, in the age of dating apps and social media, its message only resonates louder. The protagonist Bobby dates a perpetual stream of floozies while trying to come to terms with commitment, with a little help from his married friends. The Lyric Stage Company of Boston presents the lively, comedic show through October 9.

“Company” is a rollicking, adult comedy and the Lyric cast performs it with exceptional flair and genuine chemistry. John Ambrosino shines as Bobby, but it’s Davron S. Monroe and Kerri Wilson as the married couple Harry and Sarah who deliver some of the show’s funniest material. In an early scene, Bobby visits the couple for some after-dinner socializing. Harry rags on Sarah for spending money on a karate exercise class and challenges her to show him what she’s learned. The result is the couple sparring in the living room to the song “The Little Things You Do Together.”

Lyric Stage makes the play contemporary with the addition of cell phones and modernized costumes that are referential to the ’70s but not dated. The stage setting is a minimalist masterpiece reminiscent of a painting from Picasso’s blue period. Blocks in dark neutrals are stacked together to function as a bedroom, a terrace, a living room and a chapel. The shadowy set reminds us that although the show is a comedy, it asks some big, existential questions.

The play is crafted with care and thoughtfulness to make it both funny and philosophical. Lyric makes an unsuccessful attempt, in this critic’s view, to inject further abstraction by including an interpretive dance representing Bobby’s transition from emotionless attraction to vapid hotties to feeling genuine interest in a partner. The dance is performed as Bobby makes love to a girl, and we hear their separate thoughts (“I love him,” versus “What’s her name?”). “Company” was performed on Broadway with a similar dance, but the attempt to achieve depth falls flat against the vibrant comedy of the rest of the script.

Though humor abounds in all aspects of the performance, the Lyric show bears Sondheim’s characteristic contemplativeness. The aging dame Joanne, on her third marriage, proves that the institution isn’t all sunshine and flowers, and those who aren’t secure in their own persons will never thrive in a relationship. In “The Ladies Who Lunch,” she sings about her failures in love and life, proving that even in a marriage, people can be sad and alone.

Similarly, at the wedding of Amy and Paul, two of Bobby’s friends, Amy gets cold feet and almost backs out. She begins to second-guess her feelings for Paul and whether or not marriage is the right path. Taking advantage of her moment of weakness, Bobby half-jokingly suggests that they get married instead, since they both fear commitment. Amy says, “Oh, Bobby. You have to want to marry somebody, not some body.”

“Company” leaves no doubt: Marriage is hard, stressful and sometimes unsuccessful, but love is worth waiting for.