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The Last Five Years at the Masquers

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By Theresa de Valence - Posted on 05 April 2009

The Last Five Years, written by Jason Robert Brown, directed by Daren A.C. Carollo, and with music directed by Pat King is a show for operaphiles.

There’s not a word of dialogue in the performance.

There are few props and no costumes, or rather, the costumes are ordinary street clothes. There’s no set, save a large black box which periodically moves in and out of the proscenium. Though it’s a versatile black box, becoming a bench, a dock, a dance floor and a bed. (Photos by Jerry Telfer).

This austere set is relieved by a single gauzy curtain which gives a faint outline of the orchestra (Josh Cohen / Kit Eakle, violin; Patrice Young, cello; Peter Ruszel, bass; Ben Barron, guitar; Pat King / Ted Bignornia, piano).

Is the stage bleak?

No. The spotlights focus our interest on two young people emerging from this womb of darkness into early adulthood, unfolding into larger-than-life beings, soaring into love.

Cathy (Jennifer Ekman) and Jamie (Danny Cozart) move around us, off the stage and into the aisles, until we are intimately entwined in their stories. These two strong voices, mezzo-soprano and baritone, sing the tale of their romance for 90 uninterrupted minutes.

But those minutes won’t be the same for anyone else—this play is about love, but the metaphor says different things to different people.

The director’s notes talk about going through different kinds of partners and finally finding, and holding onto, one’s forever companion.

My view is a tad different.

The Last Five Years took me back to my early experiences of falling in love, back to the first time a creative extrovert fell in love with me—his excitement demanding attention, his tales filling the imagination with his magical stories, his closeness overwhelming my personal space like a large, irrepressible puppy.

In that discovery, it made perfect sense to lose oneself into this new, overwhelming kind of love—as Cathy does—their music fills my consciousness out to the edges of the room.

I found myself trying to resist Jamie’s undeniable charm—a larger-than-life man dominating my view with his huge voice. But that’s me now; back then I would have happily drowned in that voice—there’s something very seductive about selflessness.

This is the story of the author's first marriage. Jamie is a writer and teller of fabulous tales and Cathy is happy to be part of that.

Jamie’s growing popularity and Cathy’s ongoing struggle with her stymied career as an actress give several occasions for good humour.

They are both very attractive. And young. It’s easy to identify with them. But, I wouldn’t want to fall in love now the way I did then—the way they do now—I couldn’t, I know too much.

But everyone has to learn some time.

It’s heart wrenching.

And an experience not to be missed.

The Last Five Years was performed Mar 27 - May 2, 2009, at the Masquers Theatre in Point Richmond, California. This review was also published in This Point In Time (TPIT), Vol. XXVII-5, April 2009, a publication of the Point Richmond History Association.