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Andres Moreno’s character (left) encounters the harlequin played by Michael McMahan (right) in the production of ”As Five Years Pass.” The play was written by Federico García Lorca.

Andres Moreno’s character (left) encounters the harlequin played by Michael McMahan (right) in the production of ”As Five Years Pass.” The play was written by Federico García Lorca.

Play Review: "As Five Years Pass" features a surreal experience

“As Five Years Pass” is functionally a play. There are actors and there are lines. There is an audience sitting in a dark room. There is a set with big lights so the audience can see. Sometimes sound effects play from big, hidden speakers.

But that’s about where the resemblance ends. There are characters, kind of. There is a plot, kind of. And there’s conflict, kind of.

Theatre like this exists to test and redefine definitions of art, and that’s good.

Only here, definitions are tested for 90 minutes straight with no intermission. Maybe it’s just not for me, but I found it hard to pay attention when nobody spoke like a real person. The characters in “As Five Years Pass” don’t really have conversations; they mostly shout non sequiturs at each other, seemingly not talking about the same things but all talking just the same.

It was translated into English, which accounts for the abundance of odd poetry, but the scenes unfold like separate group slam pieces performed onstage at the same time.

As the characters yelped away, my focus tended to wander and I’d half-listen as I looked across at the bizarre and colorful garden of a set pondering many questions.

What parts were literal?

Which parts were pure allegory?

Both? Neither?

Which can or should be interpreted as symbols, and which as actual events?

Are the characters supposed to be symbols?

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As I turned back to the dialogue and the present moment, it was still the same inhuman poetics, and I only felt disconnected from the action at hand and the flowery metaphors.

The plot, as I understood it, centers on an affluent man (played by Andres Moreno) who lives in some sort of secluded mansion within a large city. He tells his older-self (Colin Butts) about a 15-year-old girl he is in love with and is going to marry. The exact age of the man is unclear, but he seems to be at least an adult, thus the creepiness of this is additionally unclear. One of the man’s employees (Caroline Graham) is in love with him, but he sends her away.

There is a brief interlude in which another man with some kind of behavioral disorder (Austin Dennis) barges in to generally disrupt and fondle.

There is an additional interlude with a young boy (played by Anne-Marie Little in whiteface) and a talking cat (Haley Henson), both of whom I believe are dead.

The fiancée is introduced (played by Rebecca Pressland) and happens to be a Veruca-Salt-level bratty monster. She is secretly banging a rugby player, doesn’t want to marry the man (a surprise to virtually everyone), and she spends the rest of her time screaming petulantly. Michael McMahan, a tall, gangly young ginger, garners some honest laughs as her posh and bumbling English father.

Oh, and then a mannequin comes to life (Caroline Graham). It is unsettling and cool, but I haven’t the faintest idea why it happened or what it’s intended to mean.

Then, there’s like an underwater circus?

The man is walking along and is accosted by gimpy clowns who almost certainly molest children (Michael McMahan and Austin Dennis). Pressland returns to the stage as some kind of maniacal, screeching Ursula/Sebastian Little Mermaid mash-up.

The play’s final scene involves three magicians playing a card game that bears some significance to the man. Though what the significance is or who the magicians are or why it seems like they’re looking to suck his soul out of his body isn’t remotely clear to me.

I think it comes down to a matter of taste. I like freakish absurdity in all sorts of media, but I found “As Five Years Pass” grating and tedious and couldn’t wait to leave. The underlying intention of the images, words and concepts seemed disconnected and lacked cohesion, like every element was there just to go through the motions.

Near the final minutes of the play I tried to relax and just laugh at all the weird stuff going on. From the creepy ambient music to the stilted interactions to the assertive implication of how important it all was, it was better just to take a deep breath, lean back and giggle.

Or, hell, maybe you’ll love the way it tastes, but I’ll pass on it.

Graham Gentz is a reviewer for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at or on Twitter 


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