Patient: The Last Five Years
Legal Guardian: Playwright and Composer Jason Robert Brown, Director Rachel Elise Johnson and Isaac Loomer. Music Director Annabelle Revak
Surname: Jedlicka Performing Arts Center
Address: 3801 South Central Ave., Cicero, 60804
Diagnosis: It's time to be happy
Honestly, a "two-man musical" sounds either like a theatrical get-rich-quick scheme, or an inhumane actor experiment to be conducted in the dungeons of off-off-off-Broadway. Nobody asked me for my social security, and the actors looked like they had enough vitamin D. I'll marginalize my suspicion for now.
Ick, rolling stages. Nothing says "transition time" like a giant, rumbling platform. The giant rumbling scenes, however, where well decorated in the petite space given. The main stage was like a bad marriage: at first some artifices hid its flaws, but the longer one sat with it, the more prominent those flaws became. The outside of the proscenium and the musical's live band were all creatively framed, but the main wall of the stage seemed like a rough draft or an outline. I like minimalist and economical, but it was brutally amateur as the main set piece. It was downright disgusting, vague, artificial, and even distracting. The basic color white was likely chosen to give way to transparency for the lights and to avoid distraction, but this decision completely backfired. I liked the pretty lights; the pretty lights made me feel good. They seemed to prefer Catherine's soliloquys as they helped her negative emotions pop or weep.
The two actors of the two-man-musical were no ordinary actors: they were... super actors. The aforementioned small spaces and full length tap-dance pressured these actors into hyper hamsters on Mach five wheels. At first I felt fear because they were so damn strong—like ox. Natalie Rae as Catherine Hiatt was emotionally combustive with the most trenchant pantomiming I've ever seen. Curtis Bannister is a wizard of facial expression. My countenance felt sore just from watching him, but he never seemed histrionic. I'll always remember him as the best Jewish clock I've ever seen. Uplifting an entire performance naturally gave these players their exercise.
I wanted to give the patient a robust health rating, but a stinky je ne sais quoi had hovered over me like a meek fart cloud. What was it that disallowed me to make the final leap to fall in love? Because the actors were rockstars, I can make the conclusion that the fault of the show lay with the legal guardian. The story wasn't unique: it was too quotidian, or at least too subtle for my taste. It was certainly drawn out. I did relish the monologues the legal guardian had intended to be considered, but still, the drama felt too soft. At four stars out of five, this patient is doing fi-ne-ne-ne-ne-ne-ne-ne-ne!