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Arts and Culture

Jason Alexander, of ‘Seinfeld’ fame, directs Syracuse Stage’s ‘The Last Five Years’

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Tom Magnarelli
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WRVO Public Media
Jason Alexander and Bob Hupp of Syracuse Stage.

Rehearsals are continuing for Syracuse Stage’s upcoming production of the musical, “The Last Five Years.” Its director is Jason Alexander, who is famous for playing the role of George Costanza on the hit TV show, “Seinfeld.” Alexander said this production of “The Last Five Years,” is an interpretation that hasn’t been done before.

Growing up in New Jersey, and going to see extraordinary shows all the time in New York, Alexander said his fantasies about a career were only in the theatre.

“I had no illusions about what that meant,” Alexander said. “I was sure I better learn how to bartend in between gigs. Nobody makes a living in the theatre. It’s very hard to do. To me, that was the top of the mountain. So, to have a film, television and directing career and to be on something that becomes a 'Seinfeld,' it opens a lot of doors.”

Alexander previously worked with Syracuse Stage Artistic Director Bob Hupp at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre and Hupp wanted to get him to Syracuse.

“Because of Jason’s career, lots of folks are familiar with Jason," Hupp said. "I know him as a consummate director. I wanted Jason to come here because I know he would tell a great story for our audience.”

Hupp said he wanted to put on more musicals and Alexander suggested, “The Last Five Years.” It’s a story about a five-year romance between a man and a woman, where the man’s story goes from the beginning to the end of the relationship, and the woman’s story goes from the end to the beginning. It’s typically done with just two actors as a song cycle, meaning every scene is a stand-alone song. Alexander said that makes it hard to do anything theatrical. So, he got permission from the show’s writer, James Robert Brown, to do it in a different way.

“I’ve taken the two main characters, and given them shadow figures, another aspect of themselves that are played by two dancers," Alexander said. "And so, no actor ever performs a song without someone else to engage with, which immediately makes these monologues into scenes and opens up all kinds of staging possibilities.”

Marisa Field plays one of the dancers.

“I love this score," Field said. 'I’ve been listening to the music of this score for years and years. To finally have an opportunity to tell this story through dance, is really exciting, because I think it’s going to add more depth to the show.” 

Choreographer Lee Martino has been workshopping the show with Alexander in Los Angeles, to test some of their concepts on other people.

“The vision is always based on storytelling, so there is much intent on what we’re doing,” Martino said.

As for Alexander, he said most of the time, he prefers directing to acting.

“A lot of the acting work I’ve been given to do in the last 30 years, is not the most challenging work anymore," Alexander said. "‘Seinfeld’ set a sort of, if I could get typed. There are certain kinds of work that I just don’t get offered as an actor that would be as compelling and challenging as directing something. When they do come around, I jump at them.”

“The Last Five Years,” opens at Syracuse Stage on May 29 and runs until June 16.