News Column

A bachelor looks at love and marriage in Arena Dinner Theatre's production of 'Company'

June 12, 2014

By Cindy Larson, The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Ind.)



June 12--Ah, the single life.

Who doesn't envy a handsome bachelor, loved by women and envied by men?

And what bachelor in his right mind would ruin it all by committing to love, marriage, maybe children, and a lifetime of the craziness that goes with it?

In "Company," opening Friday at Arena Dinner Theatre, the central character, Bobby (Todd Frymier) contemplates the state of his life as he sits home alone in his New York apartment on his 35th birthday. The story, written by George Furth with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, features vignettes of both the women he's dating and his married friends as he contemplates married life.

"The material is so powerfully true about love, relationships and marriage," said Director Christopher J. Murphy. "It's hysterically funny because it is so absolutely true."

As Murphy explained it, Furth initially conceived the show as a series of one-act plays about marriage. He couldn't get them produced, so he showed them to Sondheim, who incorporated the central character of Bobby to link the stories together.

"Company" originally opened on Broadway in 1970. The original production won six Tony Awards. It has seen several revivals, including one starring Neil Patrick Harris that was shown in movie theaters across the country.

Arena actually has staged the show before, in 1976 and 1984.

When Murphy saw the Neil Patrick Harris show in the movie theater, he set about trying to find a local theater group that would produce it specifically so his friend, Todd Frymier, could play Bobby.

"Todd is one of my dearest friends," Murphy said. "He is a very frequent collaborator in theater."

Murphy knew "Company" was one of Frymier's favorite shows, and that day he walked out of the movie theater he told his wife, Emilie Henry-Murphy, "I have got to do this show for Todd."

Arena came through for him and agreed to do the show. Murphy said of Frymier, "He's at the age now where he's perfect for it."

Murphy said it's a complicated role. "Todd is just so charming and funny, but with a little bit of an edge to him and just a little bit of darkness."

Frymier has had a busy year, playing varied roles locally such as Jean Valjean in Civic Theatre's "Les Miserables" and Willy Wonka in the show of the same name produced by the University of Saint Francis and Fort Wayne Youtheatre.

When Murphy first saw "Company," he was a bachelor and roughly the same age as Bobby in the show. "I found it so relatable," he said.

Now that he's been married for 1 1/2 years and is directing the show, he's discovered much of what the show portrays about marriage as it was in the '70s is "profoundly true" today. But the advent of cell phones and electronic communication has contributed to a disconnectedness that can put even more strain on marriages.

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(c)2014 The News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, Ind.)

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Source: News-Sentinel (Fort Wayne, IN)