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    Review: The Last Five Years at Actors Theatre
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    Pretty soon, it’s going to be a movie.

    But it isn’t yet.

    Thankfully, you have time to see this emotionally charged production live, before it hits the big screen and has the life is sucked out of it (Valentine’s Day, 2015).

    You have three weeks to discover The Last Five Years.  

    The premise of the American musical includes having characters telling stories through song. It is a difficult task to sing a character’s every word, emotion and thought for 90 minutes straight.

    It is even more difficult to do so when one is onstage completely alone.

    Yet, the two actors in Actors Theatre’s production of The Last Five Years manage to do just that. And they do so quite well. Autumn Hurlburt (Catherine Hiatt, a not-yet-successful actor) and Jed Resnick (Jamie Wellerstein, a very successful writer) share the stage in the two-person musical, but rarely do they do it at the same time.

    Both of the actors are well suited to their roles, drawing the audience in and compelling us to stay with them on this journey; Hurlburt doing so with such vibrancy that she makes it nearly impossible to turn away.

    The story moves so quickly that an invested audience member might suffer from psychosomatic stress from fluctuating between elation and despair as Jamie and Cathy alternate in telling the events of their lives.

    Because The Last Five Years is about the relationship of Cathy and Jamie; about how their relationship came into existence, transformed into marriage, and ultimately ended.

    But the difference here is that Jamie tells that story from the very beginning, while Cathy tells it from the end.

    The result is an intriguing and emotional mash-up, which leads to a stirring moment when Cathy and Jamie meet in the middle, both literally and figuratively, and for a few brief seconds, they are together again. Cathy and Jamie see each other in this quietly beautiful place.

    They are in love.

    And time stands still.

    And then, as ships passing in the night, they once again find themselves alone.

    It is the only time in the entire production where the two actors are actually scene partners with each other. And it is the sudden and deliberate contrast of this staging that makes the moment so striking.

    The mark of a well-done technical production is when those technical elements (lights, sound, costumes, set design) don’t stand out on their own, but blend to make the production more cohesive and stronger as a whole.

    Such is the case with the production elements in The Last Five Years. Phillip Allgeier’s media design transforms a stark, white apartment into a multitude of locales, while Dane Laffrey’s creative use of a rotating floor (along with Director Meredith McDonough’s effective direction) keeps that apartment anchored while transporting the actors and the audience.

    A nod must also be given to the normally unmentioned run crew of this production, both scenic and wardrobe, for some of the fastest quick-changes [not] seen in a long time. And, with the exception of a few dropped pieces backstage (yes, we heard those, you guys) they were flawless.

    The Last Five Years continues at Actors Theatre through October 26th. Tickets are available online or by calling the Actors Theatre box office at 502.584-1205.

    Image: Courtesy of b.brymer/Actors Theatre                                 

    Michelle Rynbrandt's picture

    About Michelle Rynbrandt

    Before landing in the Possibility City, Michelle toured the country performing in various regional theatres. Having been there and done that, she can honestly say that Louisville's cultural opportunities are second to none.

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