Under the direction of fourth-year Theatre Production student, Carl Pucl, accompanied by the musical direction of Doug Price, Daemon Theatre’s production of Jason Robert Brown’s musical, The Last Five Years is a brilliant showcase of the hidden talent within the Ryerson community. The strong team of emerging artists truly takes matters into their own hands for this limited engagement running at the SMCS Centre of the Arts.
Based very literally on Tony-Award winning composer Jason Robert Brown’s own failed marriage to Theresa O’Neil, The Last Five Years is an emotionally powerful and intimate musical about a budding novelist and a struggling actress from New York who fall in and out of love over the course of five years. In an effort to avoid a depressing ending full of morbid ballads, the show’s unconventional structure incorporates the contrast of reverse storytelling – having Jamie Wellerstien (Josh Wiles) telling his story chronologically, while Cathy Hiatt (Kaleigh Gorka) begins hers at the end of their failed five year relationship.
Employing a simple blue, white and grey colour scheme, the show’s production elements bring this production to life and help keep the audience on track. Pavlo Bosyy’s sleek three-tiered set allows for a creative physical distance between the two characters to highlight their emotional distance as the relationship dwindles before the audience’s eyes.
The couch area, kitchen table and bed are set and look perfectly lived thanks to the small details including Cathy’s used tissues, empty beer bottles, and a bag of Doritos.
The lighting design by Nic Vincent serves as a clear indicator for the many jumps in time, utilizing bright white lights during the couple’s happiest periods and contrasting with dark blues as things fall apart.
Similarly, Julia Lee’s clever costume design illustrates a smooth arc from the colourful and fun outfits worn when the characters first meet, to being clad in all white, as if having had the life sucked out of them, at the end of the relationship.
Both Gorka and Wiles deliver beautiful performances, with memorable numbers including “The Schmuel Song,” “The Next Ten Minutes,” and “Climbing Uphill/Audition Sequence.” Gorka’s quirky, yet brave portrayal of Cathy makes the character that much more of an “everywoman.”
Wiles’ surprisingly likeable Jamie allows the story to really resonate with audience members. The dedication and guts put into these performances makes it hard not to see oneself in Jamie and Cathy – two soulmates who serve their purpose and then leave.
By instilling a remarkable amount of hope and inspiration among its audiences through its staging, Daemon Theatre’s production of The Last Five Years, reminds us that sometimes the best possible outcomes in life are the ones which hurt us the most. It is an ambitious and re-imagined production of Jason Robert Brown’s award-winning musical, which is not to be missed.
For more information visit www.lastfiveyears.ca or ‘Like’ The Last Five Years on Facebook.