Stephen Sondheim’s work is superb at conveying emotional isolation. No matter what company they keep, his characters are often alone to some degree, feeling their way through interior labyrinths of ambivalence, neurosis, self-deception and doubt. The apt conceit of Craig Lucas and Norman René’s 1980 musical Marry Me a Little translates that mind-set to physical space. Built from songs salvaged from Sondheim’s discard pile—including numbers cut from the final versions of Follies, Company and A Little Night Music—the show depicts a pair of lonely New Yorkers who live on different floors of the same building. The layouts of their apartments are the same, and the staging superimposes them so that he (Jason Tam) and she (Lauren Molina) are together onstage but unseen by each other—so close, yet so far—except in fantasy sequences that unfold like a shared dream.
Jonathan Silverstein’s imaginative and affecting revival for Keen Company has been updated to incorporate a few new songs, some nods to the Internet and one major, salutary change to the plot. The first third of the show is uneasy, and a few of the songs fall flat. But the production gets deeper and clearer as it goes along. Performed with minimal accompaniment (John Bell at the piano and Molina, briefly and poignantly, on cello), Marry Me a Little is intensely intimate. And the actors are, title notwithstanding, very engaging indeed. Molina’s nuanced portrait of mercurial hurt is offset by Tam’s sensitive faux-nonchalance, and by the time they reach their climactic songs—the eponymous number for her, “Happily Ever After” for him—you feel like you’re holding their hearts in your hand.—Adam Feldman
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