Putting it Together | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Putting it Together



PUTTING IT TOGETHER, Court Theatre. Take a slew of Stephen Sondheim songs from various stage and film scores, put 'em together in a new format, and what do you get? In this case, unfortunately, a surprisingly arch and smarmy concept revue about five people--a middle-aged married couple, their maid, and two bachelors--engaging in tedious games of flirtation and betrayal whose only purpose is to set up Sondheim's anthems of sexual angst, often powerful in their original contexts but here seeming simply contrived. Rather than showcasing Sondheim as the master of complex, subtle, and revolutionary dramatic songwriting, they make him seem obvious, mannered, and worst of all banal--especially in director Gary Griffin's staging, with its often coarse attempts at crotch-thrusting comedy.

The show does have fine moments, most of them provided by Paula Scrofano. Whether communicating wry resignation in A Little Night Music's "Every Day a Little Death," tearing up Follies' cuttingly witty "Could I Leave You," or simply reacting to her stage partners, Scrofano is a marvel of charismatic concentration. John Reeger contributes the most thoughtful rendition of Company's "Sorry-Grateful" I've ever heard, and Kevin Gudahl is manically funny delivering The Frogs' Gilbert-and-Sullivan-like lecture on audience etiquette. These and a few other high points (including Jeff Bauer's clever set, an elegant penthouse apartment on whose terrace sits a society band capably led by Tom Murray) make Putting It Together worth putting up with despite its flaws. --Albert Williams

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