Review by Jaiden van Bork
This one is for the lovers! Brittany Rolfs and Sam Perwin take the stage at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (WHAT) in Craig Lucas and Norman Rene’s Marry Me A Little, a musical revue paying tribute to the legendary songwriter and composer, Stephen Sondheim.
Under the direction of WHAT veteran Christopher Ostrom and accompanied by music director Kevin Quill, Rolfs and Perwin play two New York City singles navigating the ups and downs of modern love as they fantasize from their respective apartments, guided by the romantic themes of Sondheim’s work. A wide range of the theater legend’s music is covered throughout the hour-long revue: Company, Saturday Night, Follies, and beyond. But Marry Me A Little by no means feels like a mere compilation of songs. This is a surprisingly cohesive work that could engage even the most casual Sondheim fan or theater-lover.
Rolfs’ and Perwin’s powerful vocal performances leave nothing to be desired, each with a vibrant tone and delivery that at times sends chills down the spine. Quill’s accompaniment is equally impressive, tackling Sondheim’s technical intensity with ease and delivering a musical experience that, while bare-bones, feels full and well-rounded throughout the show.
What stands out the most about this production, however, is the incredible attention to detail. Ostrom’s scenic design is meticulously constructed, creating a thoughtful and stark contrast between the two lovers on stage, each occupying one side for the majority of the performance. The set evokes a paradoxical feeling of both separation and connection, the emotional contradiction of being “so close yet so far.” It’s a symbol of the lover’s eternal struggle.
Perhaps the most striking visual element, however, is Patricia M. Nichol’s richly atmospheric lighting design, which repeatedly transforms the set and its occupants as the show goes on. Bouncing across the color wheel, Nichols conjures up day and night, love and hate, love and isolation.
Although his settings are frequently contemporary, Sondheim’s work repeatedly alludes to a fantastical past of knights and royalty, commenting in some way both on the changing nature of romance and the ultimate permanence of love. Now produced in a 21st-century context, complete with smartphones and DoorDash deliveries, Ostrom and company’s production adds a new layer to this contrast. What we get is a testament to the timelessness and brilliance of Sondheim’s work alongside a blunt acknowledgement of the sociocultural shifts witnessed since the early 1970s.
With this latest production WHAT brings new life to Sondheim in the truest sense of the word. It is an unforgettable performance that should not be missed. For those nostalgic for Sondheim’s work, those who want to discover more, and romantics with restless hearts ready for action–Marry Me A Little delivers all that you will need.
Marry Me A Little is performed Mondays through Saturdays through July 22, 8 p.m. at WHAT, 2357 Rte. 6, Wellfleet.
For tickets ($25-$40 with discounts for seniors; students $15) and information call 508.349.9428 or visit what.org.