THE LAST 5 YEARS by Jason Robert Brown, directed by Daryl Cloran, with Tyley Ross and Blythe Wilson. Presented by CanStage at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). Runs to May 29, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm, Saturday 2 pm. $20-$46, some Monday pwyc and rush. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Breaking up is hard to do. but does a couple know why it happens? Jason Robert Brown 's clever The Last 5 Years offers contrasted and alternating views of a relationship both developing and deteriorating. The experience for Jamie is recounted from start to finish, while Catherine's viewpoint is presented in reverse, from finish to start.
A key problem for them? He becomes a successful novelist; she never rises above being an average actor. Little stress, it seems, arises out of their religious differences.
Written as a 14-scene through-composed musical - there's very little dialogue - Brown's piece begins with the hurt, angry Catherine left by Jamie for another woman. In the next scene, Jamie is ga-ga over Catherine, the shiksa goddess he's just started dating.
Almost all the numbers are solos. The only time the performers meet is at the relationship's and the show's midpoint, the moment when Jamie proposes. Director Daryl Cloran stages the duet beautifully, as a mirrored scene where their paths cross as, metaphorically, one's on the down escalator and the other's on the up, with a brief shared stop on a landing.
But does it work? In the writing, not so well. Brown's lyrics are smart, but his melodies spin out as pleasant but rarely memorable. The best numbers are up-tempo. When Jamie's high on their moving in together, a driving rhythm literally makes him dance around.
Catherine has a marvellously funny piece about enduring summer stock in Ohio, where the company's star is a gay midget who plays both Porgy and Tevye.
As Jamie, Tyley Ross is sometimes emotionally cool, more often in the latter half of the show. But Blythe Wilson 's more nuanced Catherine is glowingly realized, whether she's snappily bitter at the end/beginning or joyfully hopeful at the beginning/end.