Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 26, 2008

The Last Five Years

Greene Room Productions, Monson
Weekends through March 9, 2008
February 24, 2008
By Donna Bailey-Thompson

A sophisticated retrospective of a five-year relationship – courtship, marriage, and disillusionment – is Greene Room Productions’ midpoint attraction of their second season. For "The Last Five Years" 2001 off-Broadway debut, the multi-talented Jason Robert Brown – book, composer, lyricist – won Drama Desk Awards for Best Music and Best Lyrics. Two years earlier, he won a Tony for his "Parade" score. Although "The Last Five Years" is a popular choice for community theaters, this may be its Pioneer Valley premiere.

This premiere is worthy of an appreciative audience.

Its intricate contemporary score – think Sondheim – and demands upon the two actors’ emotional range – think pithy drama – posits an intriguing twist: the husband plays the last five years from the beginning while the wife retraces backward from the end to the beginning. The one time they meet is when they marry. Along their disparate time-travel paths, they love, complain, whine, soul search, quarrel. Based upon the divergent trajectories, the suggestion is that one of the partners grows.

Presented in the three-quarter round, the cavernous space of Monson’s historic Memorial Hall becomes an intimate arena that Director Robert H. Clark III uses well. Here Erin Greene (Cathy) and David Wallace (Jamie) share their memories and reflections, their candor at times unsettling, provocative, and occasionally humorous. They disclose feelings that range from the banal to the esoteric and universal touch points in between, a gamut that is familiar to anyone who has experienced an emotionally-charged relationship. Their performances are polished and so very human.

Music Director Neal Schermerhorn leads a first-rate orchestra – Rob Degree (guitar), Kevin Germain (sub guitar), Julia Kay (bass), and Elaine Holdsworth (violin) – which does not distract but enhances, especially the aching bowing of the violin.

This production has everything going for it except the sound system it deserves – a glitch on the way to being resolved.