Sunday, August 14, 2016

Ion’s “The Last Five Years” Brings Laughter, Love and Heartbreak

Love, they say, is blind. Marriage is an eye opener. I know I’ve used that saying more than once, “but if the shoe fits”. In the short span of five years, love was found, bloomed and then faded; so tells the story in the musical lyrics, almost all solo’s, in Jason Robert Brown’s  (“Parade”) “The Last five Years” now on stage as another of Ion’s ‘Off The Radar Series’.
Brown’s ‘song cycle’ is clever but could be confusing if one had no idea of the structure. Some research might help. Based on Brown’s own failed marriage to Theresa O’Neill,  he feels all the bumps and bruises and hurts of separation. They all blend and come together nicely with both Hibbs and LeClair behind the keys and on solo.
Brown’s musical styles include jazz and pop among others.

The story is told in reverse chronological order by Cathy and chronological order with Jamie. We follow the beginning of a relationship(“Shicksa Goddess”) through the eyes of Jamie, (Cory Hibbs who also directs), while Cathy (Sarah Alida LeClair) starts at the end of the relationship (“Still Hurting”) and works her way back to the beginning. They meet somewhere in the middle. It’s a clever setup and works well on Ion’s intimate stage.

Jamie is a Jewish boy wonder who seems to have broken the mold, among his family at least, of rising Jewish star marrying out of his faith. His rise to the top of his career with Random House is catapulting while Cathy is still struggling to get her first big meaty role as an actress. He encourages her. (“I Believe In You”)

LeClair's “A Summer in Ohio” and “Climbing Uphill” had many in the opening night audience chuckling at the truthfulness of prepping for and going through an audition.   Over the course of five years, and 14 songs later, (each alternating with a musical number and on the keyboards) the story of their meeting, discoveries, love, (“The Next Ten Minutes”) understanding and coming together to their final “Goodbye Until Tomorrow/”I Could Never Rescue You” are played out in full emotional throttle.  

Moving back and fourth from New York City to various parts of the MidWest (“A Summer in Ohio where I’m sharing a room with a former stripper and her snakewith is a kick and a half and LeClaire nails it), the couple’s relationship is disclosed or is rewound. Their story seems to resonate given the nature of exposure and pressure each of the professions require and that means he gets to party with the big wigs. And you guessed it when he sings “Nobody Needs To Know” that his eyes are not only for Cathy.

“The Last Five Years” premiered at Chicgo’s Nightlight Theatre in 2001and was produced Off-Broadwayin 2002. It’s a fine summer fill for audiences looking for something sharp, different, charming, meaningful, and short-90 min. with no intermission.

Sarah LeClair is musical director and Patrick Klacka is lighting designer. “The Last Five Years” is simple, complicated, poignant and funny and can easily grab at the heartstrings with Hibbs and LeClair in charge.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Aug. 21st.
Organization: Ion Theatre
Phone: 619-600-5020
Production Type: Musical 
Where: 3704 Sixth Ave, Hillcrest, CA 92103
Ticket Prices: $25.00 General Admission


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