That's right, "The Last Five Years" was performed in person on the real stage, directed by Palo Alto Players' Artistic Director Patrick Klein, with vocal direction by Dolores Duran-Cefalu. As you may have guessed by their last name, Marah and Chris Sotelo are married in real life, which allows them to perform together mask-free, and also gives their fine performances an extra layer of intimacy and poignancy.
As noted in the pre-show text, the eight-person cast and crew took care to ensure health and safety for all involved. Their efforts are much appreciated.
The prospect of watching a play in the lockdown era is different — and often less appealing — than it was before. Yes, that energy that comes from being transported en masse to another world inside a theater is impossible to replicate. No, local theater groups cannot be expected to magically transform into professional film studios in a few months. Yes, it is hard to focus when watching on a screen at home, interrupted by the myriad distractions of life.
On the other hand, watching on-demand, as is possible with "The Last Five Years," makes the show more accessible to those who couldn't otherwise make it out to a theater (plus, there can be more snacks, bathroom breaks, pajamas and cats on laps).
All this to say, Palo Alto Players have succeeded in creating a quality production, complete with good lighting, sound and editing that's actually a (bittersweet) pleasure to watch. "The Last Five Years" may be just the perfect choice for this sort of intimate offering. And I'll admit, when the Sotelos appeared for their curtain call, even though they couldn't hear me, I clapped.
No, it's not the same experience as "normal" theater. But what it is, is lovely.
Access to "The Last Five Years" is pay-what-you-will: $25-$100 per household. On-demand video stream is available through Feb. 14. For tickets or more information, go to paplayers.org.
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