Regional Reviews: St. Louis
The Last Five Years
Also see Richard's recent review of Uncle Vanya
The young couple on stage comes fully equipped with the singing equivalent of powerful church organs, and characters who reconfigure into a host of gilt-edged mosaics, as they fall into love–and out again. Though not necessarily in that order.
Projections on a screen overhead show what year we're in, in a relationship between Cathy (Grace Langford) and Jamie (Kevin Corpuz), as the story jumps around–and as he climbs the ladder of publishing success and she struggles as a young actress. Many of the familiar aspects of budding romance, and the familiar episodes of conflict, are told in beautiful songs that are sometimes quite sad, or funny, or (most often) filled with hope and yearning.
And even though it's only a two-person cast, it is also an all AAPI cast, which is remarkable, at least in St. Louis. Taylor Gruenloh directs, and the actors' occasional orbits around a bench at center stage are exciting, and dynamic, and romantic. And even a bit predatory, during the inevitable disagreements. The back of the stage is opened up, for a change, for a lovely sense of visual depth, revealing an elegant five-piece musical group arranged in a semi-circle behind the playing area. It makes the whole frothy, emotional story seem grander.
As if the vocal pyrotechnics were not enough. When Ms. Langford sings, it is like watching perfect, bright stars emerge overhead, one by one. The notes shine exactly where you'd hope them to be, forming familiar constellations high in the sky, unattainable for most people. Mr. Corpuz is stalwart and highly professional, and finally gets the chance to play the "bad guy" in this musical from 2001. Both performers fill each moment with unmistakable meaning and intent.
As Cathy, Ms. Langford makes us laugh out loud at her inner monolog during an audition in New York City; and (before that) Mr. Corpuz is giddy splashing around in a young writer's success. Later, he's bitterly jealous before (and after) a startling act of infidelity, and the hurt on Cathy's face is heartbreaking.
The power of this emotional roller-coaster is undeniable. Though, if you haven't been in love lately, it's also a good refresher on why you might rather spend Sunday mornings just quietly reading by yourself. Then again, everything else about it will sweep you off your feet.
The Last Five Years runs through February 26, 2023, at the .ZACK Theatre, 3224 Locust Street, St. Louis MO. For tickets and information, please visit www.tesseracttheatre.com.