by Terrance Mc Arthur
Time goes forward, and we go with it. Imagine if one person in a relationship went forward in time from the then to the now, like everybody else, but the other person went from the now to the then. What would it look like? Probably a lot like The Last 5 Years, a two-person musical from StageWorks Fresno, at the Fresno Art Museum’s Bonner Auditorium until September 16 (or is that from September 7?).
It’s the story of Jamie Wellerstein (Daniel Abels-Rodriguez) and Cathy Hiatt (Taylor Abels-Rodriguez) from the time they separated to when they met (the way Cathy’s story unfolds) and from their meeting to their parting (how Jamie’s version goes). The only time they actually make physical contact onstage is when they are getting married. A film version of Jason Robert Brown’s music and lyrics, with Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan, was released in 2015.
Taylor has the harder job in the beginning of this 80-minute experiment in perception (No intermission for you, so get your snacks and take your potty breaks before you enter the theatre.) because Cathy is depressed, her marriage is crumbling, and she doesn’t realize it, and she’s fighting the realities of show business in Ohio. Taylor has to make you like that character, and it isn’t easy, but she does it so well because you can see remaining glimmers of hope that make you care. She gets to sprint to the finish line as she gets closer to Cathy’s giddiness at the beginning of love. Her glowing eyes, that LED smile (brighter than incandescent), and her lightness of step make you want to take her away from all the bad things that happen to Cathy.
Daniel is bright and brash as budding novelist Jamie, but the shine slides into smugness, and the confidence melts into believing he’s as great as women tell him he is. After the show, Daniel could earn a tidy sum by letting a line of women take turns slapping his face. Even as Jamie ruins his own marriage, there is still that memory of how nice Daniel was when the show started.
Tim Fletcher’s mini string ensemble fills the Bonner with sweet music without drowning out the actors. Brown’s score veers from Bach figures to rock, from Sondheim-with-a-melody to Godspell, and a touch of Jewish klezmer, and never goes over the cliff.
Joel Abels directed, designed, and costumed the show, and the joy of working with his daughter and son-in-law showed in his opening announcements. He proudly laid out StageWorks Fresno’s next season: a concert-hall version of Mama Mia!, La Cage aux Folles, and The Book of Will (which is about collecting the plays of Shakespeare in the 1620s).
Catch the last weekend of The Last 5 Years at the Fresno Art Museum’s Bonner Auditorium, 2233 N. First St. in Fresno. For tickets and information, go to their website or call (559) 289-6622.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. The first 5 episodes are now up! You can check the podcast out on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean.
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