The SF Playhouse continues to blow me away. Their production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” is no exception.
The musical, running through Sept. 12, with its Tony Award winning history including two revivals on Broadway, is quietly becoming one of Sondheim’s most told works.
The story of single Robert in a sea of couples is also popular at introducing audiences to many of Sondheim’s signature songs including “Being Alive” and “The Ladies Who Lunch.”
Yet, the Playhouse opted to bring such a popular musical to the stage, knowing theatre nerds would pick it apart and find fault.
Good luck to them as I had a smashing time. Everything about this production was Broadway level quality and in a show of Sondheim standards, the show would even meet Sondheim’s own standards.
The simple and tasteful set by Bill English and Jacqueline Scott is enhanced by the clever lighting and projection design of the team of Michael Oesch and Micah Stieglitz. Their work helps make each characters apartments a true separation even though members of the ensemble seldom leave the stage.
As the story goes from one apartment or location to another, it’s the lighting and projections that make that believable. It also has to do Susi Damilano’s masterful direction. I don’t know what she does to get the actors to remain frozen on stage when they are not in a scene. Yet, there are times – sometimes long stretches – in which certain actors aren’t involve in a scene, yet they remain statuesque until its their turn.
They all do get their turn.
The main character Robert is the one constant in most every scene. The last person to do it on Broadway was Raul Esparza, who has one of the most powerful and memorable voices on the theatre scene today. Yet Keith Pinto pulls out a pair of brass ones and makes the part his own. No match for Esparza as a singer (but who is?) but Pinto has great charisma and appeal and it’s easy to see why all the single ladies are drawn to his Bobby. With a San Francisco audience, a lot of the men share in their interest.
He’s such a memorable talent that I even recalled him in a really funny Britney Spears spoof from a few years back. Welcome to stardom, Pinto.
He’s not alone on the stage either. It would be quite easy to point out each person in the ensemble as they all did great work. But I do need to mention my Playhouse gem Monique Hafen, who has a field day crawling around on stage as the neurotic Amy. She continues to stun me with her versatility and seems to find a welcome home at the Playhouse.
Also, Velina Brown and Christopher Reber are hysterical as couple Sarah and Harry. They have great timing and are wonderful physical comedians. Further, they have one long moment in which they are frozen as characters while tangled together. That takes talent.
“Company” joins a great company of SF Playhouse shows that surprise us by putting a fresh and vibrant spin on seemingly familiar material, making the trite expression “everything old is new again” find its legitimacy.
Get tickets and information at www.sfplayhouse.org.