As the new theater season opened in the Trahern Theater this weekend, the Theater department elected to host this semester’s performance of ‘Company’ in a new location within the Trahern building. Was this a step in a different, possibly exciting direction for APSU’s productions? As a whole, I thought ‘Company’ certainly did, though repeated technical difficulties left some room for improvement.
I attended Saturday’s 7:30 p.m. production, Oct. 7. Immediately, I noticed the size of the new location; it was smaller. Without an actual number to go by, about half as many people could attend this performance than if they had held it in the older auditorium. I will admit the lack of space made me miss the sense of scale the older location provided, but I had no doubt the cast and crew would perform to the same level they always had in the past.
‘Company’ is a look into the life of Robert and his understanding of the meaning of marriage and whether he is truly meant for it. He looks at his friends and their marriages, from failed marriages resulting in divorces, to couples who seem to argue constantly, to relationships that seem very one-sided in nature. Robert’s struggle permeates every bit of dialogue, from the most serious and heart-wrenching to the most light-hearted and sometimes crazy. Every word plays into the theme like a series of notes creates a song when played in order.
This is a play that absolutely hinges on good dialogue presentation, as the vast majority of the play is a sequence of conversations between Roberts and individual couples he is friends with, all of which revolve around the celebration of his 35th and 36th birthdays. To my delight, the presentation of such dialogue was superb. From the couple that spent 15 minutes proving the wife did, indeed, learn a little bit of karate from the hundreds of magazines she buys, I felt a sense of realism that resonated throughout the performance.
Every character felt real. They felt alive. On more than one occasion, I turned to my friend next to me with the mortified realization of how similar we and our friends are to the characters on set.
The actors let their facial expressions enhance the experience, from the couple who was so high they were forgetting what they were saying to the arguments surrounding just how much alcohol they drink. If I did not know any better, I would have mistaken these actors for real people, people who could even be my friends.
For all the positive aspects of the performance, however, some technical issues detracted from the experience, particularly the first half of the play. Specifically, I am referring to the sound. There were many instances in the opening scenes where the feedback from the mics would drown out anything that was going on, whether it be the dialogue or during the musical accompaniment.
I will admit to be particularly sensitive to louder sounds, as my hearing issues make it difficult to tune things out, but it was difficult early on to get a sense of what was going on in some scenes because the repeated blasts of low-pitched drones overpowering any other sound in the theater.
Thankfully, this only manifested during the first hour and a half of the play. By the time we hit the intermission, it ceased to be noticeable at all. To the actors’ credit, they went right on with the performance as if nothing was wrong, but it was noticeable enough to me to become a significant distraction from the performance.
Outside of the occasional feedback issue, it was often hard to hear Shane Kopischke, the man who played Robert, over the loud instruments behind him. His dialogue was perfectly fine, at the same level as the rest of the cast, but because he sang at a higher tune, he felt quieter, and I sometimes lost him over the drums and other instruments playing along with him.
This was particularly distressing when it was just him on stage or him plus one other person, because these were moments where his character was supposed to shine, where his inner struggles were supposed to manifest, and they did, but it took much more effort to do so than perhaps it should have. Kopischke has an excellent singing voice; I just wish I could have heard it better.
Overall, the audio issues did leave me with an impression that the Theater Department is still growing into their new space, that the backstage crew still has some technical details to sort out. While no technological setup can ever be reasonably expected to work flawlessly all the time, the frequency of audio issues during Saturday’s performance was enough for me to notice.
Despite these issues, ‘Company’ remains one of my favorite performances APSU’s Theater has put on in recent semesters. There were moments where I was using every ounce of my strength not to fall on the floor cackling, the humor engaging and light-hearted, yet every word clung to a theme as intense as life itself, with characters so real I mistook them for my own friends and family.
For the opening play of a new season and a new theater space, ‘Company’ thoroughly impressed me. If this is the level of acting I can expect from this semester’s performances, considering Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ is coming in February, consider me extremely excited for what is to come.