For director Steve Kunis ’17, the decision to bring “The Last Five Years” to Harvard this semester was a no-brainer: "I think it's the kind of 'slice-of-life' piece that will always reach its audiences because it touches on problems with [one’s] career, identity, and relationships," Kunis says of Jason Robert Brown’s 2001 musical, which runs April 2-5 in the Adams Pool Theater.
The play, which follows the 5-year-long relationship between two people, has a unique structure; it follows one character’s story from start to finish, while the other character moves through the play in reverse-chronological order. Even though both actors are almost always onstage together, they interact only once, when their stories overlap in the middle of the play. Kunis says that this posed the show’s most important directorial challenge. “The dramatic lighting, the stage, which is pretty bare, and the costumes [will achieve this],” Kunis says.
Although musicals are often criticized for being one-dimensional, “The Last Five Years” intends to be a show just as focused on acting as it is on singing. “It's one of the few scores I've read where the music guides the actors through the plot," Kunis says. The rehearsal process has focused on creating characters that are complex. For actress Julia I. Biedry ’17, this means questioning past renditions of her character. “Cathy tends to be seen as the victim, but it's more complex than that...I want to bring out her strength, but also her spite and jealousy as the relationship begins to crumble,” Biedry says.
Actors and director alike are intent on creating a performance that is relevant to their audience. "I think [my character is] relatable to Harvard students because she's really hard on herself when she's trying to do what she loves,” Biedry says. When “The Last Five Years” opens Thursday, audiences will have the chance to see whether this goal has been achieved.
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'The Last Five Years': Meditations on Moving On“The Last Five Years,” which ran April 2-5 at the Adams Pool Theater, transcended the potential challenges of its script to create a production of masterful acting, staging, and music that reflected the trials of a disconnected love.
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