gene warech reviews…

The Last Five Years
at Laguna Playhouse

A callow egotistical fellow finds success; his casual chick is riddled with doubts. Never, well almost never, do they inhabit the stage together. As she moves from present to past, he moves from past to present. They do everything but communicate (but that’s the point). This is a marriage between two woefully unprepared people who, years later will regret what they let slip.  The enjoyment of the piece depends on the charm of the actors.  Kim Huber and Rick Cornette both have an unpretentious, good humored gloss that makes spending an hour and twenty minutes with them pleasurable.

There is no intermission; be prepared.

The couple is an actress and an author, not exactly your average jill and jack. The conflicts would have been very different if they were, say, a construction worker and a secretary. But that would be a different less chic story. The conflict springs from career pressures and mismatches. Rick Cornette prances about in boyish abandon; Kim Huber is a classy, lean, and prim. His voice is stretched to its upper limits but keeps character even there and there is an insouciant lilt elsewhere. She is mostly in her comfort zone except in a painfully realistic audition scene (which Huber handles beautifully) which exposes the inner anguish of an auditioner.

Jason Robert Brown’s agreeably eclectic score (he also wrote the lyrics) even has a waltz theme sounding for all the world as though it were from an operetta. That tune is all the more effective for being unabashedly romantic, even as it is twisted about to make other points. Strings and guitar add some rich timbre and character to the accompaniment. The lyrics have to do heavy hauling (no dialog).  They gracefully lay out the characters without pretense. Some might object to the man’s vow to marry any woman as long as she isn’t Jewish (his character is nominally Jewish).

Drew Scott Harris staging of the two soloists is varied and true, although there are some unavoidably long exits in the background of the exposed set. You are hustled between the high points. Narelle Sissons’ apartment house cutouts reek of city environment. Some of the projections and several references to the Central Park West skyline might be obscure for non-New York audiences. Dwight Richard Odle’s costumes are fashionable and good looking.

Gene Warech writes about theatre and opera for Orange County and Los Angeles newspapers, including six years at the Coastline News and now the Independent. Gene is a member of the Los Angeles (and Orange County) Drama Critic's Circle.

The Last Five Years