Presented by Next Door Theater Company
Music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Directed by Steve Black
Music Direction by Dan Rodriguez
Review by Danielle Rosvally
The only thing better than seeing a small theatre company be successful is to see it do so because it knows itself. The Last Five Years simply triumphs at Next Door Theatre Company; and you’ll want to be its neighbor before it disappears.
The Last Five Years is an elegant piece which requires equal grace to accomplish: minimalistic sets, simple but effective lighting, and indicative costumes. The real thing that drives this show is talent and the cast at Next Door has it in spades. Sarah Leary and Jared Walsh carry the two-man piece with gusto and humor. Walsh is simply adorkable as writer Jaime and Leary manages the sweetness of Cathy while still giving her that “crazy eyes” edge she needs to fuel the plot.
A live orchestra conducted by Dan Rodriguez rounds out the soundscape. This was actually part of the trouble: since the mics were minimal in this production, levels were nearly impossible to achieve. Unfortunately, the orchestra often drowned out Leary’s sweet voice in her more tender moments (Walsh even had a tough time of it now and again). The simple fact is that a chamber orchestra will play louder than the human voice in a blackbox theatre. If those levels could be resolved, the piece would greatly benefit.
The only other tiny flaw I could spot was a design deficiency; the set consisted of two doorways stretching out from either wing. Unfortunately, the masking on these doorways didn’t stretch far enough into the wing. As a direct result, you can spot the actors moving backstage at certain points of the show; it was prominent enough to distract from the onstage action (mostly because the onstage action required a great deal of focus to maintain).
But the staging is dynamic (which is difficult to do with this show), the music is fun, and the stage pictures are elegant and graceful.
The Last Five Years is a show about being human and the flaws that make loving humans difficult. It’s a show about art and making art and the things that make that hard. It’s a show about the way our choices affect our loved ones. And, above all, it’s a show about falling in love.
It’s a show you need to see. At a pithy hour and twenty minutes with no intermission, it’s a show you can make time to see. Go support theatre in Winchester; and enjoy blackbox stages the way they were meant to be played upon.