By Jeff Strate
Originally posted on facebook February 10, 2014
The Last Five Years is smartly cast with Matt Rein and Sarah Shervy as two twenty-something New Yorkers and a superb cello, bass, guitar and piano ensemble "orchestra" directed by Kevin Dutcher. The intimate musical is poignant and captivating. I would see Jason Brown's diamond again at the Hillcrest Center's theater (Ford Parkway, St. Paul) and recommend that my friends see it.
Last night, smack dab in the middle of a long, very cold Minnesota winter, seeing this small play was like, say, discovering Sondheim musicals for the first time. Brown's musical confessional is perceptive and original with words and arrangements, orchestration and performance, artistically woven together to reveal how a young man and a young woman fall in love and then grow apart during marriage as their lives and careers arc upwards and apart. This, of course, is familiar territory, but on a reverse chronological track for Miss Shervy's character. In tone and book, The Last Five Years is as accomplished and compelling as the scenes between Dot and George in Sunday in the Park with George or the musical narrative of the film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. This said even though most of the songs in The Last Five Years do not call for direct dialogue between the couple --- I suspect a lot of troubled marriages are the same - there are lots of "inner conversations." Mr. Rein and Miss Shervy look, move, dress and vocalize in true pitch with their characters set in New York during the 1990's. My turn in The City includes part of that decade.
And a tip of my metaphorical fedora to the Minnesota Jewish Theater Company greeter/usher who stowed my billowy, arctic jacket at his lobby table. After the show, the gent revealed that he knows a thing or two about Don't Tell Mama on Restaurant Row in NY, and lots about theater. So do I. I actually mounted a few shows at Don't Tell Mama in the late 1980's. For me, The Last Five Years and our post show gab was a reunion with times of which I remain very fond.