"The Last Five Years"
Characters approach love story from opposite directions
by Gary A Panetta
Peoria Journal Star
"The Last Five Years" the new musical running at the Apollo, is an exceptional,
beautiful piece of theatre: wistful, thoughtful and searching.
......The search is for lost love - a return to that fragile fleeting moment
when two souls come together, when the movements of mind and heart coincide,
when vistas open and tantalizing possibilities beckon. The moment is found
for an instant, barely the length of a song. Then it slips away forever.
.....The sole two characters of this musical - Jamie (Andrew Driscoll) and
Cathy (Johanna McKenzie Miller) - approach this moment from opposite directions.
Cathy's story begins at the end of the love affair and moves backward in
time all the way to her first meeting with Jamie. Jamie's story begins just
after his first date with Cathy and moves forward in time until the end of
their relationship. The two story lines unfold together, alternating with
one another, entwining like a mobius strip. A sorrowful parting is juxtaposed
with an exultant meeting; love's looming is juxtaposed by love's dying; end
and beginning merge. We know how it ends even as we learn how it begins.
.....One result is that we see background - the distances of disillusionment
and time - when the characters only see foreground. Another dimension is
supplied that would be lacking in a conventional,
chronological unfolding. And something, too,
of the psychological state of the characters, the nature of their relationship,
is captured, too. Cathy and Jamie's string of vignette-songs are monologues,
not dialogues. As they argue, cajole and woo, they address empty air, not
each other. We feel their solitude. They are intimate strangers.
.....Except that is for one crucial moment, when Cathy's backward moving
storyline and Jamie's forward moving storyline briefly coincide: the moment
when Jamie proposes to Cathy, and Cathy accepts. It's a wonderful scene -
memorable, moving and artfully staged. The two giant halves of a broken picture
frame, which have been sitting on either side of the stage before this, magically
come together creating a love seat for Cathy and Jamie, who are nestled in
each other's arms. The hour and the minute hands of a clock, scattered into
two halves - which hang like two half moons above the performers during the
run of the show - finally move into line. Diverging times have met. Two destinies
have come together. For a while, the lovers are in paradise.
.....The music is as fresh as the storytelling. "The Last Five Years" is
the work of Tony Award winning Jason Robert Brown and has song material ranging
from contemporary-sounding love ballads, to tunes that owe something to a
traditional Broadway musical, to one charming piece that's essentially a
Jewish folk tale set to music. Driscoll and Miller deliver all the lyrics
with passion, poetry and intelligence, accompanied by two cellos and a piano.
.....The small Theatre space - 150 seats - means Driscoll and Miller are
under a microscope. Their slightest expression is visible. Fortunately, these
performances are studies in detail: from the way Driscoll's Jamie seems to
drink in the sight of his new girlfriend to Miller's eyes, which turn ever
so slightly glassy, as she reads Jamie's good-bye note.
....." The Last Five Years" is a moving, special show. Nothing like it is
being staged in central Illinois right now, and nothing like it is likely
to come along soon. It deserves a large audience and a warm reception.
The Last Five Years