by Jack Shaw

Stage Left’s production of THE LAST FIVE YEARS fit perfectly on the stage at the Sketch Club Players, Inc. Theater in Woodbury. But that’s not all that was perfect. I liked this show a lot. In fact it is now on my list of favorite small cast musicals alongside: BABY, TELL ME ON A SUNDAY and THEY’RE PLAYING OUR SONG. I found myself imagining this seemingly flawless production anywhere else—L.A., Chicago, Vegas, New York, and feeling perfectly at home. I felt good. I felt connected. Then, we danced. In the end we shared life’s ecstatic and heartbreaking moments. We are asked an important question: If true happiness can be found in our dreams, then which dreams?

Ed Corsi as Jamie and Jennie Knackstedt as Cathy, star in Stage Left Productions' THE LAST FIVE YEARS, playing in Woodbury, NJ through November 14

The show tells the story of Cathy and Jamie’s disintegrating relationship as a poignant and emotional balancing act. What better way to represent the range of emotions than through a series of juxtaposed songs and poses to show us the truth about living dreams in a complex world.

Would Love have an easier time if Man still hunted and Woman gathered? Did early Man have dreams of being something other than just being together? Or was his life complicated, too, just in other ways? Did he dream of becoming the greatest hunter? Did she strive to be something more than the chief gatherer?

Told backwards by Cathy and forwards by Jamie, the engaging songs tells us about our characters, the music connects us, moving the story forward as it should. The white set pieces and the white backdrop streaked with blue are a perfect background for balancing images representing various times in the relationship.

In this intimate theater, the actor’s concentration is tested. Every emotion registers, every expression punctuates that emotion. THE LAST FIVE YEARS is thoughtfully directed by Ed Santiago, beautifully acted and sung by Jenny Knackstedt (Cathy) and Ed Corsi (Jamie). Jenny and Ed have the perfect singing voices for their respective parts, complementing each other perfectly. I’m sure Collin Maier’s fine musical direction contributed to their performances as well as the overall sound, which was incredible. With so little dialogue—well, there is no dialogue actually, the songs are as strongly acted as they are sung. The music and lyrics lead the show so much it is no wonder the composer and lyricist received or were nominated for so many awards.

THE LAST FIVE YEARS is a delicate, sensitive piece, telling a story of a relationship–of love disrupted by a complicated world, by human desires to fulfill our dreams. It is the human dilemma of deciding which dream is more important. Heartwarming and touching, it strikes us squarely in our hearts, and hits us right between the eyes. We should realize how powerful the simplest of dreams is—that of meeting someone and wanting to spend the rest of your life with that one person.  For another review of this wonderful show from a reviewer who came way out of her way check out  The Happiest Medium.  That is, if you think I’m being too positive.

by Jason Robert Brown
Directed by Ed Santiago
Musical Direction by Colin Maier
November 5 – 14, 2010
Stage Left Productions
at Sketch Club Players
433 Glover Street
Woodbury, NJ 08096

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