Theater Review: "The Last Five Years" An Emotional Ride At Cotuit Center for the Arts

Elisabeth Moore and Anthony Teixeira star in the musical DANIEL FONTNEAU - Elisabeth Moore and Anthony Teixeira star in the musical "The Last Five Years," a current offering at the Cotuit Center for the Arts.

The “Last Five Years,” a musical drama being performed at the Cotuit Center for the Arts, begs the question, “Why do we go to the theater?”

If you go for the happy ending then you might be wise to sit this one out.

It takes a special kind of audience to attend a play that’s about a failed relationship, especially when you know from the outset that the couple on stage are doomed.

So what do you say when the story is sad but the performance is good, very good? That perhaps “The Last Five Years” isn’t ideal first date material, but other than that there’s no reason to stay away.

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Elisabeth Moore and Anthony Teixeira give outstanding performances as Cathy and Jamie, an ordinary couple whose relationship unravels through song over the course of the 90-minute show. He’s an aspiring writer; she’s an aspiring performer. They meet in New York, where they have come to seek their respective fortunes. The twist being that the character of Jamie tells the story from the beginning of the relationship and then proceeds forward in time while Cathy begins at the end and tells the story going backward in time.

The two stories intersect during the couple’s wedding. It’s the only time in the performance that the two actors acknowledge each other on the stage.

The play drives home the reality that there are two sides to every story and that two people often see and interpret the same event differently, seeing their own meaning in another person’s actions.

To say that the songs are sung is an understatement. They are mostly belted out and brimming with emotion—and met with enthusiasm from the audience.

As Jamie, Mr. Teixeira comes across as a likable guy whose excitement over having just met a great girl is contagious. His likable-guy personality persists even when he engages in some less-than-likable behavior.

Ms. Moore’s character comes across as more complicated and more difficult to like, perhaps because her story begins at the end and is therefore melancholy rather than hopeful.

The third member of the “cast” is Henry Buck, who provides musical direction for the show and plays piano center stage during the performance. While not an actual performer, Mr. Buck and the piano provide something of a physical division between the couple.

Although the performance contains little action except for the two characters walking on and off different corners of the stage, both Mr. Teixeira and Ms. Moore manage to convey a lot through body language: Nervousness, excitement, uncertainty, despair and temptation.

While most of the songs focus on the big picture, hopes and dreams, some deal with the minutiae of long-term relationships, the things about another person that drive us crazy and the things that always remain a mystery. For example, who knew it was possible to sing the word, “Whatever,” with the emotional flatness that we save only for getting in the last word after a fight with someone?

Is the marriage doomed from the start? Could this relationship have been saved? “The Last Five Years” is an exceptional show with the potential to jump-start some good conversation after it’s over.

What: “The Last Five Years”
Where: Cotuit Center for the Arts
When: July 20, 21, at 8 PM
How: cotuitcenterforthearts.org

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