The Dio is presenting “The Last 5 Years”, a musical about a New York couple who fall in love, marry, experience discord, and eventually go their separate ways. The story is told almost entirely in song and with a unique plot structure: it begins at the end of their relationship from the woman’s point of view, progresses backwards to midpoint, where she and her lover meet and are married, and then continues chronologically forward from the man’s perspective. The pattern is frequently interrupted by flashbacks and flash forwards which make further demands on the narrative.
A straight reading of the pay’s plot goes something like this: Cathy Hiatt (Thalia V. Schramm) is an actress who is ecstatic about her new Jewish boyfriend Jamie Wellerstein (Steve DeBruyne), a writer who is shopping his novel around in order to find a publisher. The two fall in love and get married. Differences soon arise because Cathy’s career has stagnated while Jamie’s has taken off after a big time publisher agrees to take on his book. Cathy’s summer stock gig in Ohio gives Jamie the opportunity to partake of his editor’s sexual advances. The two grow apart until both their marriage and the relationship come to an end.
Though it had a very short run Off-Broadway in 2002, “The Last Five years”, by composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown, has gone on to achieve something of a cult status, in the process becoming a favorite of regional and local professional theatres. The Dio’s production is directed by Steve DeBruyne, who has performed in the show previously with Schramm. Both of their performances are solid and both of their voices have never sounded better. The music is an intriguing blend of musical genres, and even though the band, consisting of piano (Brian Rose, who also conducts), cello (Chris Young), and violin (Sita Yetasook), would suggest a classical bent, strains of folk, rock, R&B and jazz can be heard throughout.
The unadorned set is painted a stark white. It reacts nicely to changes in lighting, taking on colorful glows while complimenting the shows relevant moods. Props are negligible except for the occasional use of a cell phone or iPad, a requisite these days for any show having to do with urban sophistication.
“The Last 5 Years” is about ambition, love, and conflict. It’s a show best enjoyed for the singing talents of DeBruyne and Schramm. At times, the choppy chronology feels overly demanding, and keeping track of times, places, and points of view seem like unnecessary impediments to Brown’s wonderful melodies and lyrics.
The dining part of The Dio – Dining and Entertainment for this production features a buffet with garden salad, Chef Jarod’s Signature Chicken, and a pasta selection. The show runs 90 minutes without intermission, so dessert is served before the show. “The Last 5 Years” runs through June 18th. For tickets and information call 1.517.672.6009 or go online to www.diotheatre.com. The Dio – Dining and Entertainment is located at 177 E. Main Street in downtown Pinckney.