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'The Last Five Years' explores ups and downs of a marriage

'The Last Five Years' explores ups and downs of a marriage

When it comes to relationships, two people must meet in the middle.

And in Jason Robert Brown’s musical “The Last Five Years,” the married couple do, in a way, as they recount their relationship.

The story revolves around Jamie Wellerstein a rising novelist and Cathy Hiatt, a struggling actress. The show is nontraditional in its storytelling as Jamie recounts their relationship from the beginning, and Cathy recounts it from the fifth year back to the first year. 

Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theater opened “The Last Five Years” opened on Friday, July 13, at the downtown Hagerstown theater location. The show will continue Fridays and Saturdays through Saturday, Aug. 11, and a Sunday matinee on Aug. 12. The show is intended for adult audiences only and includes harsh language.

James Funkhouser of Jefferson, Md., plays Jamie, and said he has been a “big fan for a long time” of Brown’s work.

Funkhouser is assistant principal at Rockland Woods Elementary, he also teaches at McDaniel College and Frostburg State University through University Systems of Maryland at Hagerstown.

With acting, he said, “I love being able to get into other people’s stories. I think it’s such a unique opportunity with acting to be able to get down and explore someone else, and see where they go. And I love characters that can take you places you don’t expect.”

And with Jamie, that’s exactly what Funkhouser gets.

“I like that he’s so excited about life. He’s incredibly ambitious but he has a couple of drawbacks along the way. And I think I identify with that, having those big ideas and that excitement and then finding out that plans don’t quite work out the way we expect them to,” Funkhouser said of his character.

With “The Last Five Years,” Funkhouser said it’s a great musical that explores a marriage.

“I love that it’s about relationships at such a real level,” he said. “And that you can look through this show and snapshots of every relationship are intertwined inside of it. You can see yourself in some many of the characters and the moments.”

And every time with the show, Funkhouser said it’s a learning lesson for him.

“This is a show that, I know for me, I always take away a different look from my own relationships and what they mean to me, and some of the ways I handle them and where they go,” he said. “And I think it’s a unique opportunity to look outside of those relationships and really see it from a bird’s-eye view.”

Katelyn Shreiner of Greencastle, Pa., plays Cathy. 

“I love Cathy for a lot of reasons. I actually feel I really relate a lot to Cathy in the sense that she’s a performer and I’m a performer,” Shreiner said, who is a senior at Molloy University in New York City majoring in musical theater. “And I think I struggle a lot with the same things she struggles a lot with on a daily basis. I think Cathy’s a little quirky, a little different and I think she’s fun. I think she thinks so quickly she says whatever’s on her mind. I think that’s great.”

That’s why, she said, she enjoys acting. 

“For me, stepping into somebody’s else’s shoes and seeing how they deal with life. And I think it helps me as a person to deal people on a day-to-day basis and treat people how they should be treated, and acting really helps with that, too,” she said. 

Shreiner said “The Last Five Years” is “very real” when it comes to relationships. 

“People can project their own relationships on it and they will see different aspects about themselves in both Jamie and Cathy,” she said. “I think in this area, we’re so used to seeing a lot of singing and dancing in the musicals, and this one is just a slice of somebody’s five years of a real relationship.”

Top photo: James Funkhouser as Jamie and Katelyn Shreiner plays Cathy in the Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theater production of "The Last Five Years." (Photo by Crystal Schelle)

If you go ...

WHAT: "The Last Five Years" 
WHEN: 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through Saturday, Aug. 11, and 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12
WHERE: Washington County Playhouse Dinner Theater and Children's Theater, 44 N. Potomac St., rear Hagerstown
COST: $48 per person. 
CONTACT: Call 301-739-7469 or go to www.washingtoncountyplayhouse.com

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