BWW Reviews: THE LAST FIVE YEARS Gets a New Vision from LungFish
Before you start the lynch mob against LungFish Productions for altering Jason Robert Brown's "The Last Five Years" let me assure you that not one word of the original has been changed. It's the intent of the piece as how it's told that director and conceiver Kyle James Traver has reimagined and while I wasn't 100% sold on the new vision, it's still a beautiful piece from some incredible performers.
The story, as told in Brown's original version is a somewhat autobiographical one involving a writer, Jamie, and an actress, Cathy (performed by real life husband and wife James and EmilyRose Frasca). The show traverses the five-year life span of their relationship from first date through marriage and divorce. But while we see Jamie's story normally, Cathy's is told in reverse chronology so the two timelines only meet up in the middle as they get married. It's a wonderful story with some truly moving songs and one of my favorite pieces of Brown's.
So, without changing the show, how does Traver change the intent? Well, I don't want to give too much away but with some simple, subtle changes in direction we look at the loss of the relationship in a different way. It's an ambitious and interesting take on the show to say the least and makes the resolution of the show quite moving but it's the getting there that left me just a bit off. It could be my familiarity with the original but at times I found myself lost as to where and in whose timeline I was, due to the new telling. Not necessarily like trying to jam a square block in a round hole but more like a round block in a slightly smaller round hole. It eventually worked but it took a little effort.
Traver's direction of the piece is lovely and caring though and the use of framed photos to indicate the progression of a timeline was nicely handled (although if you really want to see them you'll want to sit in the front row as the seats in the intimate Theatre 4 are not raked). And his cast has some beautiful moments. EmilyRose Frasca shows herself to be a stunning, powerhouse performer. With a crystal clear and formidable voice she brings tons of life and heart to the piece. James Frasca also brings in some lovely moments but not quite as powerful as at times he felt a bit drowned out by the band (again, it's an intimate space). But hopefully they can work out any kinks and settle into the show as they progress.
I have to say any chance to see this wonderful show performed is worth it and the Frascas (especially EmilyRose) really do it justice. And Traver's reimagining really does lend a new layer of emotion to the story. So, with all that going for it, using my three letter rating system, I would give this show a YAY. Or if we want to look at it from Cathy's reverse perspective, a YAY. So I guess either way it's a YAY.
"The Last Five Years" from LungFish Productions performs at Theatre 4 at Theatre Puget Sound in the Seattle Center through March 1st. For tickets or information visit them online at www.lfpsthelastfiveyears.brownpapertickets.com.