Bravely venturing into the technological wonderland where live streaming and live theater merge into a potential minefield of incidents, Constellation Theater encountered some issues early in its virtual opening of The last five years (★★★ ☆☆). Thankfully, Kathryn Chase Bryer’s production of Jason Robert Brown’s beloved musical rocked a shaky start to deliver a touching take on the tender two-handed.
Best of all, those blips likely won’t appear in the final cut of the show’s VOD stream, and haven’t detracted from Adelina Mitchell and Alex Jones’ engaged performances as hapless lovers Cathy and Jamie. That early kick might actually resonate throughout, in the liveliness of the actors and the tight little orchestra, led by musical director Marika Countouris.
The band sounds great supporting Jones and Mitchell on the changing pitch of Brown’s genre score. And Mitchell, in particular, sounds great delivering the conversational style lyrics, which tend not to stray too far from the dialogue that flows seamlessly between songs. She and Jones take turns claiming the simple, tiered scene from set designer AJ Guban, while Cathy, an actress, and Jamie, a novelist, alternately share the story of their past five years.
The semantic significance of their story spanning the past five years, not just the past, plays out in the series’ crisscross design, as Cathy begins at the end of their romance and Jamie takes off from the beginning with dreamy, loving eyes. The two only meet in the middle, for their lush love song “The Next Ten Minutes”.
At first, Jamie is just thrilled to have finally met his “goddess Shiksa”. Jones captures both his excitement and his relief at having found someone to love. In his confident physique, Jones also expresses Jamie’s ambition, which we can hear in his voice, if not always see on his face. Jones doesn’t master the challenge this show presents of simultaneously projecting himself on stage and in front of the camera, and all too often his expressions are lost on the lens and / or the lighting.
On the other hand, the actor holds the camera beautifully during the shared ballad “Ten Minutes” of Jamie and Cathy. In contrast, Mitchell seems quite good at being exactly where she needs to be so that we can see and feel Cathy’s frustration in “See I’m Smiling” or the melancholy affection in her “A Summer in Ohio” . Guban’s rotating scene, cut in half by a narrow platform, seems very helpful in this regard, as Mitchell connects to both modest audiences in person and unfamiliar audiences, matching them with voices that connect. also.
Sadly, as it’s written, Cathy’s part doesn’t register the same depth or insight as Jamie’s, who enjoys more of a sense of immediacy and detail in storytelling. It just feels like we’re supposed to learn more about every aspect of him than she is about her – a possibly unintended byproduct of Brown being inspired in writing by his own marriage and divorce. The slight imbalance doesn’t pay off, but it makes one wonder how “Cathy” could imagine the past five years.
The last five years is available to stream on demand from June 22 to July 11. Tickets cost $ 20 per household, plus fees. Visit www.constellationtheatre.org.
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