The musical The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown is an intriguing story of a couple’s relationship as it spans from beginning to end, told from two distinct simultaneous perspectives. Last weekend, the recently-revived theater group Wig and Candle brought the musical to Tansill Theater, and the show did not disappoint.
The show tells the story of Jamie and Cathy as they meet, start dating, get married and ultimately divorce. The timeline, however, is not chronological – Jamie (Grant Jacoby ’13) tells his story from the relationship’s beginning to its end, while Cathy (Talia Curtin ’13) sings her first song about their divorce and her last about the first time they met. The most interesting thing about this show is the fact that the two opposing timelines intersect only in “The Next Ten Minutes,” which tells the story of Jamie’s proposal and the couple’s subsequent marriage. Otherwise, Jamie and Cathy don’t acknowledge each other at all on stage, though they are both present for the majority of the show. The musical truly comes full circle when the audience realizes that the last scene, in which Jamie leaves a parting note and his wedding ring on his and Cathy’s bed, is the same scene that Cathy experiences in the opening song of the show.
Jacoby and Curtin did a remarkable job in portraying the roles of two people who, for one reason or another, simply grow apart. The show’s atypical timeline contributed significantly to the audience’s perception of the characters, since they were able to effectively hear both sides of the story at separate times. Cathy faces disappointment after disappointment in her acting career while Jamie progressively becomes a renowned author, but it’s easy to sympathize with both characters.
In Jamie’s ballad “If I Didn’t Believe In You,” he sings, “I will not lose because you can’t win,” as he expresses the difficulty of living with somebody who is seemingly always frustrated with his success. Through no fault of his own, Jamie becomes more successful than Cathy, and this ultimately contributes to the couple’s divorce. The most poignant moment of the show occurs when Cathy, doe-eyed and flirtatious, sings tenderly about her newfound love in “Goodbye Until Tomorrow” at the exact same moment that Jamie is leaving his wedding ring on their bed and walking out the door in his closing song “I Could Never Rescue You.”
Because of the opposing timelines, The Last Five Years is certainly not an easy show to perform, but Jacoby and Curtin made it seem effortless. They exceeded expectations and beautifully portrayed every emotion required of their roles, from head-over-heels bliss to utter disappointment, from guilt to betrayal and from confident independence to dejected solidarity as their relationship naturally runs its course. I had nothing but wonderful things to say as I left Tansill Theater that night, and the only complaint I could possibly muster up was that the pit orchestra was noticeably out of tune in more than one piece. Having said that, I believe that The Last Five Years was one of the best shows I’ve seen at Conn to date.