October 26, 2012.By Ed Huyck, City Pages.
It's no wonder that Stephen Sondheim loves puzzles, as the composer's shows often need to be solved as much as staged.
For Theatre Latte Da's Peter Rothstein, staging Sondheim's Company offered more than just the usual issues that come from staging a musical that, in the words of the composer, is essentially plotless.
"I read it every few years. I would get halfway through, and think it had its place in history, but it didn't speak to me. Then about a year ago, I started looking at stuff with marriage in contemporary society at its center, because we have this amendment on the ballot. I looked at it again and read it with Marriage, with a capital M. It felt bigger," Rothstein says.
That reading made the musical feel more of a time, as did a breakthrough in the staging. "The play is really rooted in the sexual revolution of the late '60s and early '70s. Perhaps it felt dated because of that," Rothstein says. "They did a rewrite in '95 that starts with answering machines. I was thinking about why they made that choice. What technology is the center of our production?"
So for Latte Da's production, Bobby and his various friends will -- like the citizens of the 21st century -- be tied to their cell phones, iPads, and other electronic devices. "Seventy-five percent of the numbers are on cell phones. Bobby meets his girlfriends on match.com," Rothstein says.
Not only has this bridged the gap between the 1970s and today, but it has offered unique choices for the performers. "It has allowed the actors to make their direct addresses really clear," Rothstein says. "Sondheim is constantly shifting the voicing in his lyrics. These devices are really a tangible way to mine that."