Monthly Archives: March 2015

Some ideas about “The Last Five Years”

Drew and I went to see The Last Five Years at ACT in San Francisco. They did it as a concert, which I am now convinced is the way this show should always be done. I’ve seen I think 6 productions of The Last Five Years, and with the exception of this most recent one, they’ve all tried to stage every scene. And (I know I may be biased but) Drew’s version from college is the only one that accomplished staging it with any sort of panache.

If you don’t know the show, it’s almost entirely music. It’s the story of a five-year relationship between a man and a woman, only she tells her story going from the end of the relationship backwards, and he starts at the beginning and moves forward. The music is incredible, and even though the concept (love gained and lost) is simple, it’s well done.

Since they are almost never in each other’s stories, they are technically always in different spaces, even when sharing the stage. And it just makes the physicality difficult, especially later in the play. I think it is actually a lot cleaner to just put the actors onstage and let them sing in front of microphones, rather than worry about creating the visual world for the audience. We’ll get there on our own with just the actors and the music, I promise. We certainly did with just the talented actors and musicians at ACT.

But! I had two thoughts during this production that I found really interesting.

*Spoilers follow*

The first is that, from the beginning of the evening, I decided I was going to go through the play as Team Jamie. I am always on Cathy’s side, I always find her more sympathetic. So I wanted to really commit to going on his journey. And I did. I was right there with him until he cheats on her. And then all my sympathy goes out the window. So maybe there is a legit reason I’ve been Team Cathy all these years, and it’s not just because I like her songs better.

The second thing is just a conceptual idea. While watching this time, it occurred to me that they very specifically give you Jamie’s age at the beginning and end of the play: this five years spans his life from age 23 to 28. But Cathy’s age is never mentioned. I’ve always assumed she was the same age, but…what if she starts the play at age 30? So then: that’s why his mom doesn’t like her (it’s not just the fact that she’s not Jewish). It’s also why she feels so much pressure to succeed, and so much resentment when her 23-year-old boyfriend is succeeding and she’s not. She also mentions having kids a couple times, and I know that people can think about that at any age, but it becomes more poignant to me if she’s, you know, 33 and feeling pressure about it, while he’s 26 and it’s not on his mind. I’m not saying this is necessarily the way it’s written, but I think it would be a really interesting choice to make in a specific production of the show. It would add an interesting dimension.

All that aside, I still love this show as much as I did in college. And I’m so glad we went and saw it last weekend. I would tell you to go, but it was just a three-nights-only event, and it’s taken me too long to get around to saying, “Go see it.” My bad! I will burn you a copy of the original off-Bway cast recording to make up for it.

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Filed under Drew, Love, Music, Sentiment, Theatre

Genesis (a short story)

In the beginning, it’s awkward, as so many things are. You don’t know where you’re allowed to sit, where you’re expected to sleep, what there is to eat. You don’t even know what to call him. He seems to assume you know his name, and it apparently doesn’t occur to him to ask yours. Not that you would even know the answer.

He shows you around, touching you carefully as though you’re new-blown glass. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with you. (But you don’t know what to do with yourself.) He tries to make small talk with you, but it’s one-sided. You want to ask him about everything around you, but you don’t want to pester him. When you do ask him a question, he gives a long-winded answer that leaves you feeling…annoyed. If he knows more than I do, it’s because he’s older and more experienced, you think, not because he’s smarter.

Although…maybe he is smarter. You want to ask him what he thinks.

You’re perching carefully on a large mossy rock, watching the fish jump in the river, when he calls to you, “Eve!” For a moment you don’t move, and then you realize he’s talking to you, using a name you haven’t heard him use for any of the plants or animals he’s shown you. He calls again—“Eve?”—and you stand up tentatively and take a step toward him.

“Can you bring me some figs?” he asks, from where he’s stretched out on the grass. You look around, until he points to the correct tree. You gather a handful and bring them to him, then watch him pop each one into his mouth. He makes an irritating “mm…ah!” sound after each one, but doesn’t offer you any.

“Thanks, Eve,” he says as an afterthought. You’re not sure what the appropriate response is, so you just smile. Later, you think maybe you should have thanked him back?

As the sun starts going down, and a barely perceptible coolness settles over the garden, an untoward rumbling sounds comes from your midsection, followed by a vaguely uncomfortable feeling of emptiness. Your male companion apparently notices the noise, and he asks, “Are you hungry?”

“Hungry…” you say. “Yes, I think so.”

He seems confused. “Well, then eat something.” He gestures around you. “Eat whatever you like.”

Suddenly the choice seems too large for you. “Oh, I don’t even know what…” He takes your hand and leads you from tree to bush to vine, giving you the names again that he gave you that morning. “Mandarins…grapes…olives…dates…figs…” he says, and you repeat each one, determined this time to remember. At each stop he also picks a fruit and puts it in your mouth, so you can savor each different taste, and use the flavor to help remember which is which. After one complete pass through the garden, you’ve tasted dozens of morsels from his fingers, and no longer feel hungry.

Soon, it’s full dark, the only light coming from a high clear full moon. The birds have completely stopped singing. You hear a hooting noise from somewhere in the wilds of the garden, outside of your clearing. Your mind feels less sharp than it had in the daylight, and you have an urge to lie down. You look around for an appropriate place, but it seems that your male companion has claimed the biggest, softest stretch of grass. He’s on it now, propped on his elbows, legs sprawled out. He’s watching you.

“You can come lie down with me, if you want,” he says. You don’t want to hesitate and hurt his feelings, so you step carefully over to him and stretch out, using your arm as a pillow. For a moment, all is quiet, except for the myriad night noises that reach you, most from sources you can’t yet name, although the sound of the river is familiar.

You can hear him breathing shallowly.

You are simultaneously exhausted and alert. Today seemed so long and so full, and all you want is to be momentarily unaware of it again. You have lived a lifetime in twelve hours. You feel as if you could close your eyes and drift away, tethered to this garden but in a different place somehow.

At the same time, you are highly aware of him so close to you. He doesn’t seem tired and ready to drift off. But what could he possibly want from you? In the dark?

He shifts position and then you feel his hand on your stomach. You hold your breath, but he leaves it there, as if it’s an accident. Then he says quietly, “Do you think that you’re—that I’m—that we’re both here for a reason?”

“I don’t know why I’m here,” you say.

“Well, you’re here for me,” he says. “You’re here because I was lonely.”

“But I don’t even know your name,” you admit.

“I’m Adam,” he says, surprised. “Didn’t anyone tell you? I’m Adam. You’re Eve.” A pause, and then his hand slides higher up your stomach, and your muscles tense. “We belong together.”

“What are you doing?” you ask. He’s quiet for a moment.

“I’m not sure,” he says. “I just wanted to touch you. I felt like I should touch you. So I did. Is that all right?”

“I suppose so,” you say automatically. Then, “Actually no, I’d rather you didn’t right now.” When he doesn’t respond, you add, “I mean, I just learned your name.”

“I understand,” he says, and his hand is gone, replaced by the cool feeling of nighttime on your skin. Your initial sense of relief is replaced by longing.

You don’t sleep much that night. In the moonlight you can see Adam’s profile, as he snores quietly next to you. You think about his words: You’re here for me. We belong together. And if you can’t figure out why else you’re here, isn’t that as good a reason as any? You think of the animals he showed you today—they all come in pairs. A goose and a gander, a doe and a buck, a lion and a lioness. An Adam and an Eve?

As the sky is lightening, you finally fall asleep. You sleep lightly, not really dreaming. When you feel Adam get up, you’re fully awake again, but with a newfound sense of peace.

When you get up, he’s sitting cross-legged near the river, absent-mindedly plucking a handful at a time and sprinkling it into the water. As you watch, two ducks float into view, followed by a trio of ducklings. You feel a pleasant tug inside you at the sight of the small family.

You walk to Adam’s side and sit down. He smiles at you and pulls some more grass. You slide your hand into his free hand, and lace your fingers through his, and without a moment’s hesitation he squeezes back. You’re still not sure what the future holds, but for now, you feel content. You lay your head on his shoulder and you both watch the ducks until they’re gone.

 

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Filed under Beginnings, Fiction, Love, Writing

Previously on: This Week

So for two weekends now, Drew has been taking this class for work. Simultaneously, one of his clients came down with strep, then an allergic reaction from the antibiotic, and finally pneumonia. So for two weekends in a row, Drew’s weekends have been completely filled with work, while I tried to keep B’s and my weekends filled with educational and engaging activities.

On Monday morning at 4am, I woke up feeling nauseated. I spent the rest of Monday at home, lying down with my eyes closed as much as possible, while dealing with a raging case of food poisoning. On Monday evening, right as I was starting to come out of it, Drew held up B’s hand and said, “What are these spots?” and so (luckily) we called the doctor and (luckily) it was one of their late nights and (even more luckily) they were able to get us in that night. Turns out B had a mild ear infection as well as a mild case of HFM, which thankfully hasn’t seemed to spread anywhere else besides his hand, and doesn’t seem to bother him too much. But I kept him home on Tuesday.

Since then, he’s been acting mostly just fine, but occasionally just…under the weather. Like, he doesn’t really fight naps or bedtime right now. Which is nice. Sometimes he just wants to cuddle. In the mornings, rather than eating, he just wants to be held. All nice things. And I think all just fall under the category of “I’m not feeling great. Please rub my back while we watch Curious George.”

But now Drew and I have sore throats and stuffy noses, which I think (optimistically) is just the beginnings of a cold, and nothing more. My parents are here now and I wish I hadn’t had to lure them into this den of sickness. It would be nice to hang out when we’re all feeling top-notch. But it’s also really nice to have the support right now. (I guess they’ve seen me sicker than this.)

Last night, Drew and I went to see a short play of mine performed in a college theatre festival. It was a lot of fun, even if we were out late (and far from home!). College theatre is so fun, and silly, and supported. It was cool to remember what it was like when it didn’t matter if you were good, because the house would be full of everyone’s friends, and you’d have lots of cheers at curtain call no matter what.

And that’s what you missed last week on: Me!

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Filed under Drew, Family, Theatre, Writing