Jason Robert Brown's musical The Last 5 Years | Theater | Indy Week
Pin It

Jason Robert Brown's musical The Last 5 Years 

There's only one more weekend to catch North Raleigh Arts & Creative Theatre's production of Jason Robert Brown's musical The Last 5 Years, but make sure you have it on your calendar. The minimalist, abstract look at the birth and death of a love story—not necessarily in that order—is an emotional drainer filled with catchy tunes.

The Last 5 Years has an unusual structure that bears explaining. Half the scenes examine a five-year relationship from the point of view of Cathy (Mary Reilly, who alternates performances with Lexie Hallaman), while every other scene is from the perspective of her husband Jamie (Jaret Preston, alternating nights with Jon Todd), with the other actor either off-stage or facing away from the audience. Cathy's scenes are in reverse order, from the relationship's end to its beginning, while Jamie's move forward from beginning to end. The actors and their characters interact directly only in the midpoint of the show during Jamie and Cathy's wedding; otherwise we're either watching them come together or fall apart.

It's unsurprising to learn that writer/composer Jason Robert Brown (Songs for a New World) drew inspiration from his own divorce (incidentally, his ex-wife threatened legal action until some of the character details and one of the songs were changed). There's a decidedly bitter undercurrent to the story; Jamie experiences overnight success as a novelist that Cathy is unable to enjoy as her acting career falters. Reilly captures how Cathy's heartbreak is the product of years of bitterness and insecurity, while Preston conveys how Jamie's youthful enthusiasm withers, to chilling effect.

The pain of the material is levied by the wit and variety of the score, a combination of piano by David Oberst and cello by 16-year-old Ryan Rowe, who are visible in silhouette behind a screen throughout the production. The numbers include everything from mournful chamber music to gospel to salsa (the witty, wonderful "Shiksa Goddess"). Brown's score revels in Sondheim-esque wordplay ("If you've got a powerful connection to your firearm collection/ I say draw a bead and shoot") that cuts to the heart of the characters' psyches. Both Cathy and Jamie are sympathetic and loathsome in equal measure, and by the end, you want to both hug them and smack them.

The Last 5 Years is currently enjoying a revival Off-Broadway, and there are plans for a film with Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan, but the Raleigh production is worthwhile on its own. Its story might be told in an unusual order, but the painful emotions it explores are all too typical. Even in its most painful moments, its songs will get stuck in your head.

This article appeared in print with the headline "The English speaking, and singing, world."

Related Locations

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Theater



Twitter Activity

Comments

This looks wonderful! I cant wait until it goes on the road so we can see it in California!

by Michelle Nogales on Pioneering African-American Sci-Fi Author Octavia Butler’s Empathy and Foresight Take the Stage in Parable of the Sower (Theater)

Spelling error for one of the owners of RRE: it's Rebekah Carmichael, not Rachel Carmichael. Also, the shows run between …

by J Robert Raines on Raleigh Room Escapes Slips Through the Keyhole Between Room-Escape Games and Immersive Theater (Theater)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

This looks wonderful! I cant wait until it goes on the road so we can see it in California!

by Michelle Nogales on Pioneering African-American Sci-Fi Author Octavia Butler’s Empathy and Foresight Take the Stage in Parable of the Sower (Theater)

Spelling error for one of the owners of RRE: it's Rebekah Carmichael, not Rachel Carmichael. Also, the shows run between …

by J Robert Raines on Raleigh Room Escapes Slips Through the Keyhole Between Room-Escape Games and Immersive Theater (Theater)

your 20 sept review of playmakers current offering missed the boat, big time. the play portrayed all the characters as …

by Pointyhead on The Cake Edits Reality to Ignore the Everyday Consequences of Bible Belt Homophobia (Theater)

Oh, I'd be amused even without the in-jokes. These folks are having a great time, and the setting is transportive. …

by needsomeokra on Wants Upon a Time Is a Commedia Dell'arte Interrogation of What Happily Ever After Really Means (Theater)

The photo credit is incorrect. The photo was taken and edited by Areon Mobasher for Burning Coal Theatre Company. Please …

by Areon Mobasher on The Greeks Streamlines Sophocles’s Theban Trilogy Into Three Nimble, Strikingly Modern One-Acts (Theater)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation