REVIEW: The Last Five Years

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Xavier University has been in session just a handful of days and already they have produced their first show of the 2014-2015 season.  Director Stephen Skiles sat down with me a couple weeks ago and discussed the lineup on a podcast that can be heard here.  We talked briefly about THE LAST FIVE YEARS that day and I was very intrigued.

It’s the story of a young couple, told in a very abstract way – with him telling the story from start to finish but with her telling it from finish to beginning – and frankly, the gimmick wears thin.  Thankfully, the music is good, sometimes great, but the story is hard to follow due to the unconventional storytelling.  That’s not the fault of anyone involved in this particular production, though, as I think director Skiles did a marvelous job staging his two actors in a way that made the most of the material.

Griff Bludworth plays “Jamie,” an author who has an eye for the ladies and a healthy ego.  Bludworth plays up the man-child affliction of the character and has some very nice moments vocally. He looked positively trim, too, from the last time I saw him.  It takes him a moment, but when he settles down and stops trying so hard his facial and vocal affectations go away and his performance is better for it.  Hopefully with two years to go in the Xavier program (he’s a triple major, one of them being Theatre) he can continue to grow in his confidence and relax into roles where he can just “be” and not “act” so much.  He has a good voice – both singing and speaking – and you can tell he’s got raw talent.

Maya Farhat is superb in "The Last Five Years"
Maya Farhat is superb in “The Last Five Years”

Speaking of talent, Maya Farhat (“Cathy”) is quite possibly the most talented homegrown young actress in Cincinnati.  From the outset of this show, my heart was in my throat watching her pain at the breakup of this marriage she anticipated would last forever.  Her singing voice continues to impress but her ability to convey emotion with just a simple glance or a self-depreciating joke is absolutely marvelous.  She is much better than she has any right to be at her age and I’m so looking forward to seeing her in GODSPELL, Xavier’s next show.

The music was gorgeous and the three piece band, directed by Scot Buzza, handled the jazz riffs with style.  The sound design and operation by Cam Mitchell was absolutely flawless; sound, especially in a musical, is an area I’m often frustrated by in shows of all levels.  Audio is crucial and without the perfect work on the board, as well as how the actors were mic’d, this show would not have worked as well as it did.  Kudos to him and the entire tech crew.  Stage management, costume design, set design . . . all of it worked was very professional and I think Skiles and his team are well on their way in cementing Xavier Theatre as a training ground for the artists of tomorrow.

Get your tickets for GODSPELL, Xavier’s next production, now before they sell out.  It is being performed during Xavier’s “Parents Weekend” so it will likely be a hot ticket. Plus, the amazing Dee Anne Bryll is directing.  Get more information here.

 

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