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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Columnists > Forestburgh Playhouse Review

Something Different in FB's “The Last Five Years”

Aug 30, 2018

Jason Robert Brown's interesting concert-like musical “The Last Five Years” is something quite unorthodox when one attempts to compare it to a traditional piece of musical theatre. Being staged at the Forestburgh Playhouse, it runs continuous for about an hour and twenty minutes without intermission, has only two characters that hardly interact, and the time structure of the story demands an audience's attention. I say concert-like because this show about a young couple's unravelling marriage has each actor singing one song right after another as they wander and pop in and out of various scenes throughout their relationship. I think there were two, maybe three spoken lines throughout, if that.
However, it premiered in Chicago in 2001, jumped to Off-Broadway in 2002 and since then it has enjoyed an extensive run all around the world. This year has seen it make its way through Barcelona, Israel, Stockholm and Edinburgh!
The plot revolves around Cathy (Becca Andrews) and Jamie (Zal Owen).
Cathy is a struggling actress who is thoughtful but doesn't always have the faith in herself that she should. Jamie is a novelist who is enjoying early success and a bit more of a forceful personality than his better half. Their respective story telling through song runs on different time arcs that can sometimes be confusing, but eventually make sense at the show's poignant end. I found a few of the songs to be quite similar, but always heartfelt. The casting for this show was dead on in choosing Mr. Owen and Ms. Andrews as husband and wife. Let me tell you. These two have quite a set of pipes on them! And they worked every one of the songs in this “concert-like” show to its limit. My favorites were a couple of the more light-hearted selections where these two got a chance to let their hair down a bit.
This production wasn't too much of a director/stage design heavy project, although I did think that Aaron Porter's lighting design was what really moved us effectively through the scenes and stages of their lives. Overall, I can't say that the show is one of my favorites, although the Forestburgh Playhouse does a nice job presenting it. I just wasn't crazy about the play itself.
But I will take this moment to make another overall observation. I am saddened that this is the end of the Forestburgh season because Franklin Trapp and his crew have done an absolutely outstanding job this year presenting Sullivan County with some of the finest theatre around! Ok, you think I'm exaggerating? Well, don't rely on my word alone. How about their box office numbers? The entire run of four out of seven shows of this 2018 season were sold out by the second night! Two of the remaining three were very well attended. The word is out! The Forestburgh Playhouse is and continues to be a theatrical force to be reckoned with. I can't wait for 2019!!
“The Last Five Years” will run through September 2. Tickets and info are available through the box office at (845) 794-1194 or online at

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