‘The Last Five Years’ not your average boy-meets-girl story

May 11, 2017

Boy meets girl. Boy marries girl. Boy loses girl.

Girl loses boy. Girl marries boy. Girl meets boy.

Wait. That can’t be right. Can it?

It can if you watch the newest production from the Batavia Players, “The Last Five Years,” opening this weekend at the Harvester 56 Theater, 56 Harvester Ave.

The story follows the lives of Jamie, a novelist, and Cathy, an actress, through their five-year relationship. Where it gets interesting is that Jamie’s story runs in chronological order from the time he and Cathy meet to when they end their marriage, but Cathy’s story runs in reverse order from the split to the first meeting. The only time the two characters interact on stage is during the wedding at the middle of the show.

“I had seen the show three times before, and I really thought I was going to propose it to the board,” said Amy Martin, director and actor who plays the role of Cathy.

The challenge for the two actors — Joe Kusmierczak plays Jamie — comes from building a relationship and chemistry between the two characters despite only being on stage together in the same place and time, once. Martin said it is especially difficult for her, because she has to go from being completely demolished her husband is leaving her to being in the giddy, start-of-a-relationship phase.

“It’s hard. We can’t really pay attention to each other’s songs sometimes because we have to be in a completely different emotional place then what is happening on stage,” Kusmierczak said. “That’s a real challenge because normally you are in a show and you get to interact with another person you can bounce off of.”

To tackle this, Martin says she has to think about where Cathy is at that moment and can’t think about what Jamie or even Cathy just sang. Kusmierczak admits its a bit easier for him because he is going in the correct chronological order.

Each scene is a different song that alternates between the two characters. While it isn’t an opera like “Les Misérables,” there is minimal speaking.

The music is challenging too.

“This music is so challenging; not just for us but also for the musicians that we’ll have. It’s so complex, beautiful and haunting,” Martin said.

She said between the time signature and absolute emotion which needs to be brought because the character isn’t interacting with anybody else which makes it so difficult.

“That’s the thing. Musically it’s very challenging, so it would be challenging if you were just singing it — like just the range you have to have and the endurance because some of the songs are really long,” Kusmierczak added. “(They songs) aren’t just simple melodies and the accompaniment, the pit, isn’t always playing things that will help you. Just by itself the music difficult, but as Ami said, layer the emotion you have to have singing the song on top of that. It’s really some of the most challenging music ever.”

“The Last Five Years” premiered in 2001 in Chicago and had a two-month Off-Broadway run in 2002. A film adaptation was released in 2015 with Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan in the lead roles.

Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets cost $15 for adults and $12 for students/seniors and are available at the box office and through DailyNewsTickets.com.

By MALLORY DIEFENBACH, Batavia Daily News