Last week I went to see a play called “Company” in Amherst. It’s a musical actually. I’ve been hanging out a lot with my theater friends lately and we’ve been to several shows. This one is outstanding and it plays til June 26th so I highly recommend it.
Anyhow, I think a lot of theater appeals to me because it is entertaining, upbeat, funny- and yet underlying is a very, very dark and somber message. Relationships are hell. A couple of weeks ago we watched “Lovers and Other Strangers” which had you rolling in your seat the entire time. But the underlying message was the same. People can be awful and relationships are next to impossible to navigate.
“Company” had great music, which I just loved in and of itself. But I found the message to be riveting. It centered around a character named Bobby who was surrounded by married friends. We follow the different relationships and all their complications as we also watch Bobby date equally complicated and imperfect women. The happiest couple in the show was one that decided to get divorced. They still lived together and were obviously in love. Divorce was what allowed them that luxury.
The director Roger Paolini wrote a note in the program which I think captured it all: “As it deals with marriage and relationships, the show forced some people to acknowledge things they didn’t want to acknowledge, and they missed its ultimate message that, as Sondheim states, “to be committed to someone is difficult, but to be alone is impossible.'”
And that’s it. While it’s terribly uncomfortable to immerse yourself in the truth that relationships cause great pain, the fact of the matter is, there are endless plays and songs and movies about them. We are driven to have them, in spite of their imperfections. We want them, warts and all.
The play ends with a song from Bobby called “Being Alive.” Here is an excerpt from the script and lyrics as he struggles with himself and the decision to be in relationship or not:
“Bobby, there was something we wanted to say.
The line was busy…
Bobby fella…Bobby sweetie–
ROBERT [speaking]: Stop!…What do you get? [Sings]
Someone to hold you too close,
Someone to hurt you too deep,
Someone to sit in your chair,
To ruin your sleep.
PAUL: That’s true, but there’s more to it than that.
SARAH: Is that all you think there is to it?
HARRY: You’ve got so many reasons for not being with someone, but
Robert, you haven’t got one good reason for being alone.
LARRY: Come on, you’re on to something, Bobby. You’re on to something.
Someone to need you too much,
Someone to know you too well,
Someone to pull you up short
And put you through hell.
DAVID: You see what you look for, you know.
JOANNE: You’re not a kid anymore, Robby. I don’t think you’ll ever
be a kid again, kiddo.
PETER: Hey, buddy, don’t be afraid it won’t be perfect. The only thing
to be afraid of really is that it won’t be.
JENNY: Don’t stop now. Keep going.
Someone you have to let in,
Someone whose feelings you spare,
Someone who, like it or not,
Will want you to share
A little, a lot.
SUSAN: And what does all that mean?
LARRY: Robert, how do you know so much about it when you’ve never
HARRY: It’s much better living it than looking at it, Robert.
PETER: Add ’em up, Bobby. Add ’em up.
Someone to crowd you with love,
Someone to force you to care,
Someone to make you come through,
Who’ll always be there,
As frightened as you
Of being alive,
AMY: Blow out the candles, Robert, and make a wish. *Want* something!
Somebody, hold me too close,
Somebody, hurt me too deep,
Somebody, sit in my chair
And ruin my sleep
And make me aware
Of being alive,
Somebody, need me too much,
Somebody, know me too well,
Somebody, pull me up short
And put me through hell
And give me support
For being alive,
Make me alive.
Make me confused,
Mock me with praise,
Let me be used,
Vary my days.
But alone is alone, not alive.
Somebody, crowd me with love,
Somebody, force me to care,
Somebody, make me come through,
I’ll always be there,
As frightened as you,
To help us survive
And that about says it all…