BY CARY GINELL
Continuing with our interview with Veronica Dunne and Austin Miller, who will be starring in YAE4Ever’s production of The Last Five Years next weekend. The chronology of Veronica and Austin’s characters oppose each other; whereas Austin’s runs in chronological time going forward, Veronica’s goes in reverse from a point in the future, after their characters divorce.
VCOS: There’s only one point in the show where you actually play off of each other, and that’s when your timelines converge when you get married. How do you deal with that as actors?
AUSTIN: It’s definitely difficult because there are many songs of Jamie’s where Cathy is in the scene but I’m acting to air. So we’ve had a lot of points where we bring in the other actor and we perform the scene as if the person was plugged into the scene. That way, we get to connect and see how the other person would react and play off of that. And then we take them off the stage and still feel the same connections.
VCOS: Are you two familiar with I Do, I Do?
AUSTIN: I’m not.
VCOS: It’s a two-person play with Robert Preston and Mary Martin playing a married couple in various stages of their life. But the timeline is fully forward progressive. And their characters change and grow as the show goes on throughout many decades. Why do you think Jason Robert Brown did The Last Five Years in the manner that he did, where one of the characters goes backward in time? It sounds almost like a gimmick to attract attention.
AUSTIN: It may seem a little gimmicky at first, but when you see it, it doesn’t feel like it’s getting spelled out to you. It never slaps you across the face.
VERONICA: Yes, and I also think that the reason why he did this – and this actually came to me recently, in just observing the show – I think it kind of puts everything in perspective, because when you watch a relationship unfold, you’re kind of going through the emotions with the actors, and when you see how heartbroken Cathy is at the beginning of the show, and yet how elated and happy Jamie is at the beginning of the show, and then at the end, in reverse, how elated and happy Cathy is and how upset Jamie is, it kind of puts the whole thing in perspective like in any relationship. I feel that when you end a relationship, it’s very hard to see all the elements and to recognize, “Oh, this is how I was feeling at the beginning,” or “I remember this time when it was like this.” You look at the terrible, awful things, and that’s why so many people dislike their exes. And by the end, when you see how upset Jamie is, and yet, Cathy has this huge smile on her face because she’s just met who she thinks is the love of her life, there’s this kind of melancholy discontent because you know how happy it’s going to be, but you also know how it’s going to end.
AUSTIN: It’s interesting, because – spoiler alert – you know at the beginning of the show that they do not end up together. They get a divorce and part ways.
VERONICA: Because of the way the show is written, it’s a really early spoiler (laughs).
AUSTIN: But throughout the show, you know that there’s no way it’s going to work out and you end up rooting for them even though you know the way it ends. But you still think that maybe they will be together in the end.
VERONICA: Yes, there is still this hopefulness inside of me and there are definitely points in the show where I think, “Oh my God, is this going to work?”
AUSTIN: The way it’s formatted, you may expect it to be too much of a roller coaster and to not know how you’re supposed to feel because it’s going from perfection to destruction for every song, but it all weaves together and it makes you feel like you’re remembering a relationship from the past.
VCOS: It seems like the way the story is being told retains the equilibrium of the overall relationship. We don’t get too up from Jamie’s euphoria because we see, at the same time, the utter despair in Cathy’s emotional state at the start of the show.
VERONICA: So at the beginning, Jamie’s at 10 on the scale and I’m at 1. Then when you get to the middle, there’s not so much up-and-down, up-and-down.
In our final installment, Veronica and Austin talk about their future as actors, separately, but also as possibly stage partners in further productions. Look for Part 3 of our interview next week.
The Last Five Years opens at the Hillcrest Center for the Arts on June 13. For dates and showtimes, see the VC On Stage calendar.