Sometimes staging a play requires some restructuring.
“We had to dissect the story,” said Kathleen Dooley, who is directing “The Last Five Years” at Wheaton Drama, a show that offers two storylines: one in chronological order and the other in reverse order. “We had to look at some of the things that the characters said and draw some conclusions to what happened in their relationship. In rehearsal we broke down the scenes and re-ordered them to see what happened.”
“The Last Five Years,” a musical written by Jason Robert Brown, explores a five-year relationship between Jamie, a rising novelist, and Cathy, a struggling actress. Jamie tells his side of the tale in chronological order, while Cathy relives the relationship backwards, with both stories intersecting in the middle, on their wedding day.
Wheaton Drama will present “The Last Five Years” from Aug. 8-17 at the Wheaton Drama Playhouse.
“I think the reason it is told this way is to really let the audience experience intimately the complex story,” said Dooley, who also is the musical director of the show. “In the first song, Cathy is relating the break up and we think that Jamie is a terrible person. But in the next song he is upbeat and a really lovely guy.”
In addition to the unusual form of storytelling, the play also has some added performers.
“I added to the staging,” said Dooley about five dancers who also appear in the play. “The five dancers are always between the two lead characters. They help show what is going on in their lives. They are dancing for some of their songs. Jamie sings about dates he has been on and we show the dates a little bit with the dancers.”
Dooley said that casting was a bit of a problem, but in a good way.
“I was overwhelmed with so many real good candidates,” she said. “People want to do this show. It is a great showcase for their talent. I could have done four productions with the number of talented people who auditioned.”
Once Garrett Ard and Sharon Voss were cast as Jamie and Cathy, Dooley had to work through some other challenges.
“These two characters could be played many different ways,” she said “I had them play their roles so that it was not a choice for the best dance or a choice for what was best musically, but the right choice for the characters. We had to work through that.”
Dooley believes the appeal of the show is its universal feel.
“There is a lot that is relatable to anyone in a relationship,” Dooley said. “His story is forwards. Hers is backwards, so at the end we see the satisfaction of her on the first date. It’s very uplifting.”
‘The Last Five Years’
111 N. Hale St., Wheaton