Review by Jason Wert
Hey Aryn Bohannon, can I have my heart back? You ripped it out with the first line you sang and never gave it back.
I went into tonight’s production of The Last Five Years at Springfield Little Theatre without a real idea what to expect. I had spoken to director Josh Inman earlier in the day and he explained it was the tale of a five year love story where the female character tells the story in a backward timeline while the male character’s timeline starts at the beginning.
The description makes it sound like the show would be hard to follow and confusing…but the show is absolutely amazing. One of the best shows I’ve ever seen at Springfield Little Theatre.
Aryn Bohannon, who plays Cathy Hiatt, gives one of the best performances to ever grace the Landers stage. The instant the lights come up on her, the look on her face communicates pain on a level that someone as young as her shouldn’t really understand.
Her performance is award-winning. The nuances in her vocal inflections and delivery of the songs were perfection. The first song isn’t even done before you fall in love with her character; that desire to see her happy and successful carries throughout the show. She’s the clear protagonist in this two person show, and there isn’t a single second she’s on stage where you aren’t drawn to her.
The closest I’ve seen someone come to Bohannon’s command of the stage was Kim Crosby in last season’s Hello Dolly! production.
The other actor in this production has a real challenge: portray someone who is an unlikable, pretentious, narcissistic jerk in a way that doesn’t turn off the audience and keeps them interested in the moments he’s alone on the stage.
Dillon Savage somehow not only pulls that off, but he does it in a way that makes you absolutely loathe his character while wanting to see his next move. I’m not going to give away the ending, but when Savage’s character Jamie Wollerstein starts his final solo scene, you want to walk onto the Landers stage and punch him square in the nose.
It takes a very capable actor to make such an unlikable character so watchable. In any other show, Savage would be lauded as the best actor on the stage; unfortunately he’s up against Bohannon who throws the acting equivalent of baseball’s no-hitter with her turn as Cathy.
Special attention also needs to be given to Parker Payne, the piano player who accompanies every song in the show. Parker’s playing basically for 85 minutes straight and didn’t miss a note. The music, and the mood it sets, is a character unto itself, and Payne is pitch perfect.
And finally, director Josh Inman did a fantastic job getting his actors to control the stage in a dominant yet understated way; for a director who usually produces the big cast productions, Inman hits a home run in his first try with an intimate show.
If this is the level of show we can expect from Springfield Little Theatre in its 86th season, this community better get ready for the best round of productions ever to grace the Landers Stage. The Last Five Years is a huge surprise, a giant hit, and a star vehicle for Aryn Bohannon.
It’s worth your time, it’s worth your money, and you need to make an appointment to revisit The Last Five Years.