Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last Five Years” at Long Wharf through June 1
By Tom Nissley
Jamie (Adam Halpin) starts at the beginning of their story, going forward. Cathy (Katie Rose Clarke) starts at the end, rolling backwards. Knowing that is important, and it helps to make sense of the charming musical that is playing at Long Wharf this month, with Jason Robert Brown’s spectacular music that blends voice and instruments (mostly string). So Cathy laments that she’s still hurting (they have separated), while Jamie sings wildly that he’s breaking his mother’s heart (hurrah) but he’s over-his-head-in-love with a shiksa goddess he’s longed for. (A long procession of girls from Hebrew School and the JCC have just not worked for him). He buys her a rose; he knows he’s moving too fast, but he’s in love! They move in together to an apartment on 73rd Street. And they get married.
Jamie’s career takes off when a novel he’s writing is accepted by a publisher, and Cindy’s goes more slowly but she does move out of being a waitress-in-waiting to an actor in a show or shows. One super number shows Jamie presenting his own work -- a Yiddish folk tale about a tailor for whom the clock stopped so that he could create a dress and gain a wife/life -- it is Christmas, and he has bought Cindy a watch. That number in particular highlights the interesting set (Eugene Lee) and lighting design (Ben Stanton). A turning roundabout in the center of the stage is surrounded by lighted numbers on a clock face, used to full advantage at this point in the story, and a symbol of how time became a problem.
As Jamie’s success rolls forward, he is more and more caught up in book signings and networking. Cindy resents that he doesn’t have time for her birthday, or to see her shows, and she refuses to go with him when he’s receiving an award. And then (remember that in this story her time goes backwards while his goes forward) she’s receiving and adoring the rose which we watched him have ready for her when he first fell in love with the shiksa goddess.
Costumes (Paul Tazewell) are changed subtly on stage as the scenes and seasons unfold. The production is directed by Gordon Edelstein, with musical direction by James Sampliner, and it is very worth your time to visit.
Tickets and information at www.Longwharf.org or 203-787-4282
Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre