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‘The Last Five Years’ is Frank, Honest and Intense
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Friday, September 30, 2022
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

It’s as intense as a romantic relationship. And, unfortunately in this case, as intense as a romantic relationship that starts out with fireworks and disintegrates into torturous misery.

“The Last Five Years” being staged through Oct. 8 by the Liberty Theater Company is not for the faint of heart.

It’s a rather sobering musical that rings true for many relationships, which kick off brimming with possibilities before crashing and burning.

It’s worth seeing for the creativity behind it.

Cathy’s story, played by Tess Makena, starts at the end as she wails about how her marriage has crumbled: “Jamie is over and where can I turn covered with scars I did nothing to earn?”

 Jamie’s story, played by Chris Carwithen, starts at the beginning when they first caught one another’s eyes.

The couple’s look at their heady rush of love followed by temptation and disenchantment crisscrosses at the middle as they sing of their proposal and subsequent wedding: “There are so many dreams I need to see with you,” sings Jamie. “There are so many years I need to be with you,” replies Catherine.

Tess Makena and Chris Carwithen give it their all as pianist R.L. Rowsey takes on the unenviable task of providing accompaniment to a musical that seesaws minute by minute from elation to despair. Sam Mollner spent hours putting together lights that vacillate from red and orange warm and happy to blue.

And set designer Joe Lavigne, who created so many of Company of Fools’ sets, did a creative job of building a New York apartment in The Argyros’ Bailey Theater, creating indoors and outdoor spaces with multi-level scaffolding and steps and other structures to stabilize the structure.

In such an intimate setting, the actors are literally in the audience’s face.

Matt Musgrove, meanwhile, has the unenviable task of keeping tracks of props, including crumpled paper notes, as the relationships rotates through different stages in a flash.

Rowsey noted that the musical was written by Jason Robert Brown, who composed “Songs for a New World,” which Rowsey directed and played for Company of Fools years ago.

Brown is a pianist’s composer, he said, and his music is “hard:” “I’m a huge fan of Jason Robert Brown—his music is so intense. And in this case, I get to ping pong back and forth. It’s a really, really hard score. It’s difficult to get right.”

Carwithen said that he has the advantage of working up to the pain that Cathy has to lead off with.

Some people have trouble picking words out of song. And this musical makes you work for every word because it never lets up and there are hardly any spoken words.

If you’re one of those people, it may be worth it to study the lyrics and show up because the music is so authentic, so true to life, so frank.

Jamie, for instance, sings about resisting temptation as a married man: “In a perfect world a miracle would happen and every girl would look like Mister Ed and it’d be me and Cathy and nothing else would matter.”

Cathy sings “I could do better than that” as she sings first about a friend who “settled” after she found she was pregnant and then about herself thinking a relationship might work only to have the guy blow her off “to focus on his career.”

“You don’t have to put the seat down…You don’t have to eat prosciutto…just stay with me,” she sings.

Then she sings of the flush of newfound love with Jamie, whom she’s just met: “So, goodbye until tomorrow! Goodbye until my feet touch the floor and I will be waiting. I will be waiting!”

As he realizes an insurmountable crack in their marriage has torn open, Jamie sings about his actor-wife’s frustration of being rejected at one audition after another, “But I could never rescue you no matter how I tried. All I could do was love you hard and let you go.

“I will not fail so you can be comfortable, Cathy,” continues Jamie, who by now has become an overnight literary sensation with groupies hanging on his every move. “I will not lose because you can’t win…If I hadn’t believed in you, I wouldn’t have loved you at all.”

Makena said that she’s learned from the play and her own life experiences that listening is key.

“This play is a chance to look at something, think you know everything about the situation and then you learn more and maybe be willing to change your opinion or let go of opinions altogether and just be,” added Rowsey.

IF YOU GO….

“The Last Five Years is being presented in-the-round at The Bailey Studio at The Argyros with a limited seating of 35 audience members a night.

The 90-minute show starts at 8 p.m. October 2, 5-6 and 8. A 2 p.m. matinee will be held Sunday, Oct. 2, and Saturday, Oct. 8.

Tickets are $35 for general admission and $15 for student tickets, available at https://ci.ovationtix.com/35937/production/1138114.

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