The Last Five Years begins at the end of a love story—but also at the beginning. That might sound like a sappy rom-com tagline, but don’t be mistaken: This two-character musical, presented by Portland Center Stage and directed by Nancy Keystone, features separate timelines, one going forward and the other backwards, as our couple falls in and out of love (or out of and into love).
Written by Jason Robert Brown in 2002, the musical travels forwards with Jamie, a successful writer who has just fallen in love with Cathy, and in reverse with Cathy, a struggling actress shattered by the end of her marriage to Jamie. The music throughout easily interlaces moody jazz, upbeat pop and wrenching ballads, leading the audience through snapshots of interactions and emotions. One moment, we ache at Cathy’s hope-tinged sadness as she sits with Jamie and tries to fix their problems. At another, we see a wide-armed Jamie dancing on the table as he confesses he’s going to ask Cathy to move in with him. It’s an interesting parallel to witness such tonally varied scenes one after the other, and it allows the audience to understand both of the characters' stories without choosing sides.
Though it’s occasionally disappointing that the characters don’t really interact with one another—their timelines intersect only once—Meredith Kaye Clark and Drew Harper give wonderfully natural performances, and The Last Five Years allows for a simultaneously bright and heartbreaking look into the development and failure of a relationship between two everyday people.
GO: The Last Five Years is at the Gerding Theater, 128 NW 11th Ave., 445-3700. 7:30 pm Tuesdays-Saturdays, 2 pm Saturdays-Sundays and noon Thursdays through June 22. $30-$60. Tickets here.