In last Friday’s Wall Street Journal, I reviewed webcast versions of The Last Five Years and The Aran Islands. Here’s an excerpt.
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The most consequential development in the postmodern history of the musical has been the explosion of interest in small-scale revivals initially triggered by John Doyle’s 2005 Broadway production of “Sweeney Todd.” What we have not yet seen is a comparable explosion of newly written “chamber musicals” that, like Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last Five Years” (2001) and Josh Schmidt’s “A Minister’s Wife” (2009), are written for very small casts and accompanied by instrumental ensembles of like size. Since such shows would be well suited to the daunting problems posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is good news that “The Last Five Years,” a two-actor musical, is now being presented as a webcast production of supreme dramatic and technical excellence, as fine a show of any kind as I’ve reviewed since I started covering online theater a year ago….
Joe O’Byrne’s “The Aran Islands” is a one-man play assembled by him from turn-of-the-century journal entries by J.M. Synge, the author of “The Playboy of the Western World.” It’s the 10th video production of New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre, whose shows continue to set the gold standard for theatrical webcasting. Performed by Brendan Conroy, directed by Mr. O’Byrne and filmed earlier this year at Dublin’s New Theatre, it is a digital remount of the Irish Rep’s original 2017 production, a piece of richly colored storytelling enhanced this time by film footage shot on the isolated islands portrayed in the play….
* * *Read the whole thing here.