Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Mar 31st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

An Affair to Remember

ae_L5YStars shine in Cabrillo Stage's bittersweet 'Last Five Years'
The winning streak continues at Cabrillo Stage with its new production of "The Last Five Years," the second offering in the company's 30th Anniversary season. More of a song cycle than a conventional musical play, the show is a tightrope duet that takes its two performers through an entire romance, from joyous beginnings to bitter end. The songs won't be familiar to most audiences, and the staging is intense: two people onstage in the intimate Black Box Theater for an hour and a half, without an intermission. But as a showcase for two terrific Cabrillo Stage veterans, Andrew Ceglio and Ariel Buck, it's a knockout.

Written and composed by Jason Robert Brown, the story-songs in "The Last Five Years" touch on every aspect of love and romance (goofy jubilation to disenchantment, rage, and poignant regret) in the five-year relationship of Jamie Wellerstein (Ceglio), a young novelist on his way up, and Cathy Hiatt (Buck), an aspiring actress whose career has stalled. In the show's high-concept structure, Cathy sings her story starting at the end of their marriage, going backward in time, while Jamie moves forward through their relationship from beginning to end.

So while both characters are onstage throughout, they rarely participate in the same song together; their opposing viewpoints (one always looking backward with regret, the other looking forward with hope) play in counterpoint to each other. This can be a little frustrating; we'd like to see these two dynamic performers interacting more often. (Only in mid-show, when the characters finally reach the same page in their relationship, do they sing the same song together, the breathless and buoyant proposal/wedding dance number, "The Next Ten Minutes.") But the concept makes sense in terms of staging: at least one character onstage is always happy, if not downright giddy, so the audience gets a breather between the more dramatic songs.

It's a good thing. No sooner does Buck unleash her beautiful, powerhouse voice on Cathy's blistering, end-of-the-affair ballad, "Still Hurting," than Ceglio counters with his riotously funny "Shiksa Goddess," in which young Jamie revels in his gorgeous new non-Jewish girlfriend. The gist of the narrative is that 23-year-old Jamie lands an agent, then a New York publisher for his first novel, and finds himself swept up into the glitterati. (Ceglio gives the song, "Moving Too Fast" a punchy mix of cockiness and pure euphoria.) Cathy, meanwhile, is still schlepping to auditions and doing summer theater in Ohio. (Her caustic "A Summer In Ohio," is another gem.)

Director-choreographer Mollye Maxner's thoughtful staging makes the most of the small theater space. Patrick Klein's effectively minimalist set consists of a platform and two cubes that the actors shuffle around into various configurations of furnishings and vehicles. And kudos to costume designer Christina Dinkel for the sparse array of clothing items that do so much to define the characters. (Young Jamie's red sneakers are an especially nice touch.)

But the reasons for the couple's disharmony, as laid out in the songs, can be problematic. Brown wrote the piece after the breakup of his own marriage, and he's careful to show how hard Jamie tries to encourage Cathy's dreams. But it's also suggested that Jamie sours on the marriage because Cathy's not living up to her potential ("I won't lose because you can't win," he sings), or because he thinks she's too resentful to go to book parties with him. Also, right after their wedding duet, Jamie sings, "A Miracle Would Happen," about how hard it is to resist other women now that he's married. (He needs a "miracle" to stay faithful to his wife?) It's hard to keep track of the exact timeline, but Brown never lets Jamie stop and consider that the reason for Cathy's persistent unhappiness may not be her career, but his infidelity.

Still, however dubious the reasoning, Ceglio and Buck put it all over with conviction, in splendid, virtuoso performances that hit every note of the joy and pain of falling in and out of love. Just when you think nothing could be more sublime than Jamie's "The Schmuel Song," a tour-de-force fable about a Jewish tailor enacted by Ceglio with relish, humor, and heart, along comes Buck with Cathy's hilarious "Audition Song." Ceglio's "Nobody Needs To Know," sung by Jamie from another woman's bed, is devastating.

These are difficult, complex songs that require range and stamina, beautifully performed. Buck is radiant, and Ceglio is a one-man theatrical master class. (He's played Seymour in "Little Shop of Horrors," Cliff in "Cabaret," the Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz," and a show-stopping Herod In "Jesus Christ Superstar;" in his spare time, Ceglio also directed the popular "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," and choreographed this season's "The Full Monty.")

Andrew Ceglio and Ariel Buck make "The Last Five Years" an affair to remember. Don't miss them.


The Cabrillo Stage production of “The Last Five Years” plays in repertoire Thursdays through Sundays through Aug. 14, at the Black Box Theater, Cabrillo College. For more info, call 479-6154, or visit cabrillostage.com.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Best of Santa Cruz 2015

In 40 years of publishing, Good Times has seen a lot of “bests.”

 

Spring Triangle: Three Spring Festivals—Aries, Taurus, Gemini

The Spring signs Aries, Taurus and Gemini constitute a triangle of force that sets the template for the nine signs that follow and the template for the entire year (Spring 2015 - Spring 2016) ahead. Aries initiates new ideas, Taurus stabilizes the new thinking of Aries and Gemini takes the initiating stabilized ideas of Aries/Taurus and disperses them to all of humanity. It is in this way that humanity learns new things, with the help of Mercury, the messenger. As Spring unfolds, three elements emerge: the Fire of Aries (initiating new ideas), the Earth of Taurus (anchoring the ideas of God through Mercury) and the Air of communicating Gemini. These three signs/elements are the Three Spring Festivals. They are the “triangle of force” forming the template (patterns) of energy for the upcoming new year. After these three we then have the soothing, calming, warming, nurturing and tending waters of the mother (Cancer). Cancer initiates our next season under the hot suns of summer. Planets, stars and signs create the Temple of Light directing humanity towards all things new. March 29 is Palm Sunday, when the Christ, World Teacher, was led into Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (humility). Palms waving above His head, signified recognition of the Christ’s divinity. Palm Sunday is the Sunday before the Easter (Resurrection Festival). Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, the week of capture, imprisonment, passion, sacrifice, crucifixion, death and resurrection of the christ. All events in the Christ’s life represent events (initiations) that humanity experiences through many lifetimes. We turn our attention to these holy events this week. Their concepts portray and reveal to us greater spiritual understanding. Then, Aries, the “light of life itself” shines through us.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Best of Santa Cruz 2015 Editor's Picks

BEST NIGHT CAP WARSAW MULE AT SHADOWBROOK
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Spring Spirits

Sean Venus’ gin straight up, remembering Rosa’s and a tasting of Hungarian wines

 

What’s your favorite most recent outdoor discovery in Santa Cruz?

A hike that’s across from Waddell Beach. I didn’t realize you could go across the highway and do a super simple loop, and it’s beautiful. You can see the coastline. Liz Porter, Santa Cruz, Community Outreach

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Muscat 2012

 

Front Street Kitchen

Pop-up spot attracts paleo crowd with locally sourced low-carb meals