The Last Five Years Examines Failed Relationship

Rory Alexander as Jamie and Ashley Cuellar as Cathy in “The Last Five Years.”

Blending powerful singing with intimate emotion, the Bright Eyes Productions of Jason Robert Brown’s musical The Last Five Years features excellent performances that capture the hope and heartbreak of a failed marriage between two young twenty-somethings in New York City.

Jamie Wellerstein (Rory Alexander), an aspiring novelist, meets, falls in love with and marries Cathy Hiatt (Ashley Cuellar), a struggling actress. His skyrocketing success and her career difficulties drive the couple apart.

Brown’s work perfectly captures the trajectory of the relationship through the opposite directions of the couple’s careers: Jamie tells the story from beginning to end, while Cathy reveals the story from end to beginning. This concept mirrors the distance and dissonance in the couple.

Both actors give knockout performances and possess strong voices. Alexander’s expressive, animated features blend with his soaring voice to bring charm to an ambitious, selfish man. Cuellar brings sensitivity and delicateness to the insecure, pleasing woman, though her voice is slightly thin.

Director William Hemmer’s simple, straightforward staging accurately communicates the intimate nature of the project, employing video to reflect changing sets and scenery. The small, enclosed space helps contribute to the trapped feelings of the characters. Garrison Burrell’s colorful costumes and Matt Richter’s sharp lighting also add sparkle to the presentation.

Ron Snyder and his small ensemble contribute pleasing energy and emotion with their expressive playing. It’s great to hear live music instead of canned.

Outstanding acting and staging make The Last Five Years an entertaining evening at the theatre.

Bright Eyes Productions presents The Last Five Years on Friday, June 24, through Sunday, June 26, at the Lounge 2 Theatre located at 6201 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood. The performance starts 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 7 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets cost $25. Call (323) 960-5770 or visit www.plays411.com/lastfiveyears to make reservations.

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