Wednesday, March 16, 2011
| Posted by
I went to see yet another play with Jon Chew in it – though this time it's a musical play.
Written by Jason Robert Brown, "The Last 5 Years" is an American musical drama about a couple, who could be any couple in the world, who have a first date, fall in love, get married, get jaded, and then break apart. What's interesting is how the writer chose to present the story: using parallel but directionally-opposite timelines, which a friend who saw the play with me said reminded her of The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.
What makes the play as it is staged at KLPAC even more interesting, is the set design, which impacts the layout of the auditorium. Basically, the stage area bisects the audience, with one end of the set being the room of the about-to-leave-the-house singleton, and the other end that of the marriage home, and we see both players, Jamie and Cathy, start at opposite ends of the stage, crossover in the middle and end up in the other side of the stage by the end. This diametric feature of the set design is brilliant, I thought, and mirrors the symmetrical structure of the play itself (its effect on the audience can be described as schizophrenic, which is of course interesting). I don't know whether this was an idea from director Christopher Ling, or it was inherent in the play as it was written, though when I checked a Youtube video of one of the Chicago stagings with Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott it didn't seem that that was how it was staged ... it was hard to tell at any case. Never mind that, but this is worth pointing out because rarely do the set design of a play comes in so strongly in telling the story.
Which is sung out, of course, and the actors did a pretty good job here. I read somewhere that Tabitha Kong was experienced in singing and it really shows here; she has some of the toughest parts to sing – also some of the most interesting parts, including my favourites from the list of songs, "See I'm Smiling" and "Climbing Uphill/Audition Sequence" – and boy did she pull them off! Jon Chew I've never seen singing, but in the past two plays I happen to see him in I thought his acting abilities were good; here he was able to portray the wide-eyed delight of first falling in love as well as the guilt and anger in the breaking-up, and though he sometimes eats up certain words in the lyrics or goes too soft until they disappear into the music, for the most part his voice was pretty good.
All in all it was an enjoyable play, definitely worth a watch.