5 things to know about StageWorks Fresno’s ‘The Last 5 Years’
StageWorks Fresno closes its 2018 season with a new production of “The Last 5 Years,” a wonderfully intimate musical that dives deeply into the lives of its two characters. It opens Friday, Sept. 7, at the Fresno Art Museum’s Bonner Auditorium. (And if you’re a member of The Munro Review, you can win a pair of tickets.) Here are 5 Things to Know about the production.
IT TAKES TWO: This “Last 5 Years” is a family affair with StageWorks’ artistic director, Joel C. Abels, directing his daughter (Taylor Abels Rodriguez) and son-in-law (Daniel Abels Rodriguez) in the two-character production. In the show, Jamie Wellerstein (played by Daniel) is a talented young writer on the cusp of an extraordinary career. His wife, Cathy Hiatt (played by Taylor) is a talented young actress trying to break into Broadway, but her own career seems stalled. It’s a tale of any relationship in which one partner is more successful than the other — and the consequences that can bring.
LOTS OF SIMILARITIES: Jamie and Cathy live in New York. Daniel and Taylor live in New York. Daniel and Taylor are married. Cathy is an actress navigating the tough world of New York auditions. Taylor is an actress navigating the tough world of New York auditions.
Pictured at top: Daniel Abels Rodriguez and Taylor Abels Rodriguez in ‘The Last 5 Years.’ Photo: Ronald D. Webb, StageWorks Fresno
Pretty wild, right?
Of course, there are some major differences. Daniel is not a novelist. Taylor does not do summer stock theater each year in Ohio. And, most important, Daniel and Taylor’s marriage is not in trouble like the one in the play is.
FORWARD AND BACKWARD: This could be considered a spoiler alert, so skip this section if you want to go into the play totally cold. But for many people, it helps to know the chronological structure beforehand to avoid confusion. Jaime’s story is told moving forward, starting at the beginning of his five-year relationship with Cathy. At the same time, Cathy’s story is told moving backward, starting at their breakup. Only once do their paths “cross” — at the middle of the play — during their wedding. From then on, they continue their separate journeys.
Are you a member of The Munro Review? Win a pair of tickets to ‘The Last 5 Years’
The result is distinct and compelling. Both characters start in moments of extreme emotional states — one ecstatic, the other crestfallen — and then slowly trade places. From an acting standpoint, the structure of the show is a challenge. Except for that meet-in-the-middle wedding scene, Jamie and Cathy don’t actually share the same space and time.
The musical is sung almost the entire way through, with only a few lines of spoken dialogue.
SOMETHING OLD: Here’s a fun tidbit. The wedding dress worn by Taylor in “The Last 5 Years” is the same she wore in the StageWorks Fresno production of “The Light in the Piazza.”
THE MUSIC: Jason Robert Brown wrote some gorgeous songs for the show. (My favorite is one that Cathy sings titled “I’m a Part of That.”) And while there may be only two cast members in the show, the StageWorks production features a live orchestra more than three times that size. If you’re a fan of the cello, this experience will make you very happy.