Edmonton’s Theatre Network has a new home at The Roxy on Gateway and kicked off its 41st Season with a beautifully simple and vocally supercharged production of Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years. An Off-Broadway hit that is a favourite with theatre companies all over North America, The Last Five Years is a beautiful and heartbreaking show that is a challenge both from a performance and directorial standpoint.
It is an inside look at a five year relationship between Jamie and Cathy – told in opposite directions. Cathy begins the show at the end of the relationship lamenting the loss of her love and wondering what went wrong, and Jamie begins the show with exuberant excitement over meeting the woman of his dreams. Eventually they meet in the middle for the pivotal wedding scene, and then we watch as Cathy progresses to the beginning and Jamie explores the fall-out.
There are many things that make this show a challenge, not the least of which is the fact that the ‘couple’ never get the opportunity to interact since they are each telling the story from a different time frame. As such they have to act alone, yet convince us of the deep love that they share. Director Bradley Moss does an excellent job of helping the actors showcase their feelings while remaining separated on stage, and the set design by Cory Sincennes is both simplistic and well utilized as we are transported to various locales along the relationship highway.
Stars Jeremy Baumung and Patricia Zentilli are to be commended for their work, both appear to have a deep understanding of the material and a commitment to showcasing all the ups and downs that come with romantic entanglements. Jason Robert Brown’s lyrics are at times incredibly tricky, and both handled them with precision and ease that made it easy for the audience to follow the speedy dialogue.
Baumung’s comedic timing and excitement at the beginning of the show provided much needed laughter behind the pain that is at the core of this production, while Zentilli breaks hearts as she struggles with not only the loss of her love, but a faltering career and a sense of not knowing where she belongs in the world. When they finally meet in the middle we see two people who are at their core just looking for love – they’re hopeful, cautiously optimistic and very much in love.
That’s what makes The Last Five Years so incredibly sad and poignant at the same time. It is a razor sharp look at what happens all too often in relationships. Two people meet, they fall head over heels, they share their lives and then it falls apart. It’s not one person’s fault nor is it easily explained – it just stops working. What’s left is pain, scars and heartache that neither person properly comprehends. Nowhere is this more evident than in the opening number when Zentilli sings “Jamie is over and where can I turn? Covered with scars I did nothing to earn? Maybe there’s somewhere a lesson to learn…”
In the end, relationships are hard, they are risky and they often end in pain and confusion. The Last Five Years embraces that reality full-throttle and gives audiences a realistic look at what happens when people lose love. It’s beautiful in its misery, and one of those shows that you can feel differently about each time you see it. So go and check it out at The Roxy on Gateway and let yourself experience the questions, emotions and feelings that will inevitably surface when you experience this beautiful production.
Where and Where?
The Last Five Years
The Roxy on Gateway
On now until November 15th
For more information or to purchase tickets please visit http://theatrenetwork.ca/shows/season/season41/the-last-five-years/