Deconstructing Love

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Tess Makena and Chris Carwithen rehearse for their roles in The Last 5 Years. Photo credits: Kirsten Shultz

Hailey theater company takes Ketchum stage 

By Eric Valentine

One stage, two actors, and a plot that never intersects albeit for what has been described by critics as one ‘golden moment’ in the middle. It all adds up to an emotionally complex yet subtly simple theater experience The Liberty Theatre Company (TLTC) will put forth over the next two weeks, in Ketchum, at The Argyros, as the organization attempts to raise the $1.7 million it needs to renovate and maintain the historic Liberty Theater in downtown Hailey.

Earlier this year, the Sun Valley Museum of Art offered the building to the Hailey group. TLTC now has until Dec. 31, to raise the funds it would need for renovation and ongoing maintenance.

The Last Five Years follows the story of Cathy, a struggling actress, and Jamie, a budding novelist on the brink of wild success. They meet, fall in love, marry, and divorce over the span of five years. As the musical unfolds, Cathy tells the story from the end of their marriage, moving backward in time to the beginning of the relationship. Jamie moves forward from their first date to their last goodbye. They meet only once, mid-play, at their wedding. Described by fans and critics as poignant, funny, and devastatingly honest, this two-person musical has been performed around the world. Starting tomorrow, Valley folks—35 at a time—will take the relationship drama in.

What follows are some thoughts the principal performers have about TLTC’s latest undertaking.

R.L. Rowsey, Music Director

Q. What excites you about music directing this piece, and what do you think makes this production unique?

A. I’ve loved this piece, this score, for a couple of decades now. Jason Robert Brown is a pianist’s composer. He writes so pianistically.

Q. What are you hoping audiences might learn from these characters and/or this story?

A. So I don’t think it’s giving anything away to say that we see this relationship from beginning to end. At different times. And from different viewpoints. There’s the gift for me. The chance to look at something, think you know everything about the situation, and then learn more and maybe be willing to change your opinion or let go of opinions all together and just be.

Q. What is it about this show that brings you joy?

A. The delight of creating a musical buffet with two singers and a piano is something you’d ask of a fine chef—make a gourmet meal with five ingredients. This is exciting, thrilling, and daring. You go home tired, but happy.

Q. Why is it so important for audiences to see this show, and to support live theater right now?

A. We’ve spent a few years being so cautious around each other, being careful not to touch, to get too close. I get it. The world is different. It’s changed. But we have to start finding the things that connect us again. We have to start looking out for each other. We have to find the ways that we can reconnect.

Tracy Sunderland, Director

Q. What are you hoping audiences might learn from these characters and/or this story?

A. I don’t believe most art contains or should contain tidy moral lessons on how folks should live their lives. I think this story, this production, is an invitation to bear witness, to feel reconnected to something we’ve all experienced: the bittersweet joy and heartbreak of falling in love and losing that love.

Q. Why is it so important for audiences to see this show, and to support live theater right now?

A. I think it’s valuable to keep sharing stories with each other, to seek connection in a world that has us increasingly isolated. And who doesn’t love a love story?

Tess Makena, Actress

Q. What excites you about performing in this piece, and what do you think makes this production unique?

A. I’ve been a fan of this musical since I was a teen. The honest and devastating humanity of the lyrics and these two characters is relatable for everyone in some way or another. In the span of ninety minutes, we get to perform sky-high elation and crushing loss in two opposing timelines. In one breath, Jaime beams from the excitement of their first date while Cathy mourns the loss of him. It’s powerful, beautiful, and an important musical work, which is why I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to tell this story nearly two decades after originally hearing it.

Q. What are you hoping audiences might learn from these characters and/or this story?

A. I hope audiences learn the importance of listening to each other. We tend to find ourselves engrossed in our own narratives of why things happen, of how things happen, of who is to blame or praise for the various pain and joy we feel, and we forget to consider the other sides of the coin. Cathy isn’t a hero, Jamie isn’t a villain, as much as Jamie isn’t a hero and Cathy isn’t a villain. They’re human, they’re us, we’re them. So we listen to their story, we hear their joy and pain, and we learn how to empathize with each other by listening.

Chris Carwithen, Actor

Q. What excites you about performing in this piece, and what do you think makes this production unique?

A. These are two characters that actors dream of playing. The honor and the great weight of playing one of the most coveted roles in modern musical history is not lost on me. Jamie and Cathy are both extremely complex characters, made even more fascinating through the lens with which this story is told. The music itself is its own character, and to have the amazing R.L. Rowsey playing the role of music director/accompanist for us in this show is enough to push it into the stratosphere. But to then have the incomparable voice and talents of Tess Makena perfectly capturing the character of Cathy on top of that, and then to have Tracy Sunderland’s incredibly unique perspective on this story guiding us and bringing everything to life… I would challenge audiences to see this show, to see the work of these folks I’m playing alongside, and tell me that what they’ve just seen isn’t on par with a night on Broadway.

Q. Why is it so important for audiences to see this show, and to support live theater right now?

A. It’s crucial that people see this show, that this town experiences the power of what we have right here in this community in terms of theater. We all need to be reminded of how important the performing arts are in our lives. We have a place called the Liberty Theater on Main Street in Hailey. It was once filled with music, much like the music of our play. If we can be a small reminder to our community of how important it is to fill that building with music once more, then we will have done our job.

THE LAST 5 YEARS

Cast & Crew

Talent | Role

Tess Makena | Cathy Hiatt

Chris Carwithen | Jamie Wellerstein

R.L. Rowsey | Piano

Tracy Sunderland | Director

Matt Musgrove | Stage Manager

Joe Levigne | Scenic Designer

Samuel Mollner |  Lighting Designer

Sam Felps | Stage Hand

More Info

The Liberty Theatre Company

• (208) 582-8388

• libertytheatrecompany.org

• info@libertytheatrecompany.org

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