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‘The Last Five Years’: A Story of Two Broken Souls?


9 Works Theatrical took a greater risk in presenting an Off-Broadway musical by Jason Robert Brown’s ‘The Last Five Years’ with Nikki Gil as Cathy Hiatt and Joaquin Valdes as Jamie Wellerstein, which runs till the 31st of this month at Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza in Makati City.

Both Gil and Valdes vividly essayed their respective characters with so much emotion that made the audience feel and identify the roller-coaster ride of feelings presented in the said one hour or so (without intermission) production.

Gil and Valdes as Cathy Hiatt and Jamie Wellerstein in Jason Robert Brown's 'The Last Five Years'. Photograph courtesy of Oliver Oliveros.

Gil and Valdes as Cathy Hiatt and Jamie Wellerstein in Jason Robert Brown’s ‘The Last Five Years’. Photograph courtesy of Oliver Oliveros.

It Takes Two to Tango, Indeed.

In a musical with a theme that tackles about failed relationship, Brown’s piece is reflective of his own personal experience and every word inked in the songs totally created the needed message and emotions that were successfully interpreted by the two equally talented artists—Gil and Valdes.

Moment-Memory

Gil didn’t just impress her followers with her noteworthy acting on television, but she has many times proven it in her stage stints, too. In this musical, she probably have shown much sensitivity in breathing into the ‘still hurting’ ex-wife and eventually an individual who realized to move on and face life with acceptance of what it may bring her after the separation.

Perhaps her personal struggles in her recent breakup; an almost five-year relationship with celebrity Billy Crawford was instrumental enough for her to give a powerful performance as Cathy Hiatt.

Valdes as Jamie Wellerstein once said in the press launch that doing musical is where he is most comfortable with, but singing may not be that confident; and he may not be as strong as a singer compared to Gil, but he surely exceeded and matched Gil’s performance.

Every song he sang pierces the heart especially the part when he sang the song ‘If I didn’t Believe in You’. Another song that he effectively justified what he did because he was forced to do it was ‘Nobody Needs to Know.’

Both actors succeeded in being vulnerable and making their performances relatable to their audience. Though most of the time, they weren’t interacting physically, only in imaginary fashion—in their scenes, they never tried to upstage but rather shine in the moment they find themselves in. They proved that it takes two to tango especially in a relationship and with a two-character play like ‘The Last Five Years’.

Retelling a Love Story in a Post Modern Set.

Its staging in an abstract set or probably accepted as postmodern theater design utilizes pastiche of various textualities and media forms.

Brown wrote Cathy’s story in an unusual and backward narration and Jamie’s in a chronological order as he brilliantly crafted the two characters’ interaction in one scene where they both ‘physically’ did a duet in the same scene—the wedding part as they sang ‘The Next 10 Minutes’.

Though the narratives in each scene of the musical weren’t really presented completely or may have been purposely broken, but still inter-related with each other and serve as webs of sub-stories. It allowed the audience to witness a unique experience altogether in a musical production. The audience gets to share the process of completing the puzzles of the two characters’ journey.

Mio Infante and GA Fallarme did a great collaboration in the show’s scenography, video and production design. The images presented onstage were at its most dramatic moments even if it requires the audience to create their own self-conscious atmosphere—it still achieved the kind of emotions that Robbie Guevara may have envisioned for the musical play. This attempt is effective in provoking the minds of its audience as well as evoking the senses for making each scene meaningful with their own interpretations, too.

It is a retelling of a story that the audience can simply relate to and get to be disturbed; and agree that love is a matter of when and not why.

The musical isn’t the kind of a ‘Happy Ending’ type of love story, but it sure is ‘more practical’ and offers an uplifting conclusion. Brown simply describes that every break-up is not detrimental, but sometimes it is essential for two people involved in a relationship to go on separate ways, to grow and mature, somewhere.

9 Works Theatrical’s Boldest Production.

‘The Last Five Years’ is indeed a challenging play especially for a five-year-old theater company like 9 Works Theatrical.

However, it has catapulted 9 Works Theatrical as a group who is not afraid to take on productions that are not ‘mainstream’ and with ‘proven positive returns’. It gave me the impression that the next best production I can watch out for that would require authentic introspection or representation of human experience is from this artistic ensemble.

Staging such does not only challenge the artistry of the people behind such productions, but also the audience. Their contribution in bringing plays into life cultivates further the sense and sensibilities of Filipino audience.

I truly appreciate their highlighting the fallibility of definite truth and encouraging the audience to reach their own individual understanding. It provides venue for intelligent discussion and interaction as well. And I congratulate this group under the headship of Guevara.

For inquiries and ticket purchases, contact TicketWorld at (632) 891-9999 or +639175545560. Also visit 9 Works Theatrical’s official website and its social media accounts – facebook, twitter, and instagram.

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  1. Pingback: ‘The Last Five Years’: A Story of Two Broken Souls? | Tinseltown Times - 19/08/2014

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