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  • ‘The Last Five Years’ Benefits From Its Author’s Insightful Direction

    When the title page of a musical bears the credit “written and directed by,” a tiny throb of terror slices through me. That kind of hubris—believing that you are equally talented at four demanding and very different theatrical crafts—usually leads to disaster. Not this time. Author Jason Robert Brown has chosen to direct “The Last Five Years,” his 2002 two-person musical about a troubled first marriage, for Second Stage Theatre, and the result is enthralling. Perceptive, detailed, and beautifully paced, Brown’s direction illuminates the material with striking clarity, and he draws a matched set of marvelous performances out of Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe.
    The show’s structure is unusual. As Jamie’s story unfolds from beginning to end, Cathy’s is told backward. The tales meet briefly in the middle, but even in that one scene each has a solo. Jewish Jamie is a talented writer of fiction with a driving need for success and a bit of an empathy deficit. Shiksa Cathy is a would-be actor and singer with self-esteem issues and a healthy appetite for attention. Both are smart, funny, rebellious, and genuinely in love. What they are not is right for each other, something love

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