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Spotlighters Theatre The Last Five Years

By • Mar 7th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
The Last Five Years
Spotlighters Theatre: (Info) (Web)
Spotlighters Theatre, Baltimore, MD
Through March 24th
1:25 without intermission
$20/$18 Seniors/$16 Students
Reviewed March 1st, 2013

There are three sides to a story of a relationship: his version, her version, and the truth. In The Last Five Years, we see a failed relationship. It is shown through the eyes of Cathy (Lauren Schein) moving backwards through the five years, and it is shown through the eyes of Jamie (Zachary Carter) moving forward through the five years. Both of them have a distinctly different perspective on the relationship through its stages.

Musically, Spotlighers’ production is a success. The orchestra is wonderful in bringing the score to life and adds little extra touches like snapping fingers when appropriate. Both of the performers have powerful voices and are on pitch for the vast majority of the very difficult score. On the sheer level of vocal concert, it is very dynamic and is a beautiful example of this awesome music.

The lighting design is really excellent as well and uses both light and shadow well to set scene and mood. The set is simple with a lovely floor design and supports the minimalist piece.

It is the minimalism that is lacking in several other aspect of the production. It seems that Director Fuzz Roark was sometimes overly resistant of just letting the piece be. Sometimes, the motivation may have been to make sure that the audience in the round saw everything equally, but it broke the moment when Cathy was walking around during a scene that took place in a car. There were also other times when the movement seemed forced to keep the scene from being static, where it could have been much powerful leaving Jamie and Cathy still but able to feel and convey the emotion in simpler ways. Sometimes, the reality of a scene, of a moment, is to stay still.

This was especially true for Carter. When he was left to sit or stand and feel a moment, there was a genuine connection to the material. However, whenever he had staged movement or choreography, you could feel his discomfort as the movement became forced. However, Carter was in general obviously nervous on this opening night, and he may have more success with the movement as he relaxes into the run of the show.

Schein, on the other hand, was much more relaxed and had a good energy throughout. Where she missed the mark a little was in lack of transformation. There was little distinct difference in the character throughout the years. She did not slowly transition to someone younger and full of hope as the show progressed. Even when her reactions to situations changed slightly, it was circumstance that was changing. The character remained static.

To her credit, this ability to really transform and follow the story through was really hindered by the fact that the two characters were often jumping time to appear in the other actor’s story. This was a big misstep on many levels. For one thing, it kept pulling the characters in and out of time, and it was not always clear what time line was meant to be represented in the current reactions. It also made it hard for each individual to stay focused on his/her core timeline.

Furthermore, a lot of the beauty of The Last Five Years is that we see his side and her side. The truth is left to audience imagination. We do not see the reactions or facial expressions of the other person. Each time line and each song in it shows that character’s perception of the events, which is never exactly the reality of the events. By making it a full scene with props, the other actor, and sometimes even extra actors, takes it away from the audience. With this script, less would have been more.

Whenever directors take a risk with a vision or concept for a show that is new and different, they take a big risk. Risk taking is an awesome quality in a theatre and, through trial and error, is likely to ultimately translate into a big win. This production is not that big win, but it is an opportunity to see a different type of experimentation in the context of what is, in this production as much as any other, a beautiful, complex, and heartfelt score.

(Editor’s note: The show is double cast, with each Jamie performing with each Catherine throughout the performance run.)

Cast

  • Cathy: Norma Gomez/Lauren Schein
  • Jamie: Zachary Carter/Bart Debicki

The Creative Team

  • Director: Fuzz Roark
  • Musical Director: Kevin Roland
  • Stage Manager: Jesse Doggett
  • Assistant Musical Director: Bobby McCoy
  • Lighting Design: Pete Vargo
  • Set Design: Alan Zemia, Fuzz Roark
  • Costume Design: Laura Nicholson, Fuzz Roark
  • Booth Technician: Jesse Doggett

Orchestra

  • Violinist: Kristin Bakkegard
  • Guitarist: Ryan Lucas
  • Cellist: Jacques-Pierre Malan
  • Fretless Bass Guitar: Russell Snyder
  • Cellist: Lauren Weaver

Disclaimer: Spotlighters Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musicals for use in church.

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