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Theater Review: 'The Last Five Years' -- 2.5 stars

Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe in

Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe in "The Last Five Years" Credit: Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe in "The Last Five Years"

The Last Five Years
2.5 stars

Although Jason Robert Brown is frequently hailed as the most promising post-Sondheim songwriter of serious musical theater, his shows have all failed to achieve long runs or even critical support during their New York premieres.

But all of them— especially the two-actor “The Last Five Years” — are frequently produced at regional theaters throughout the country.

While “The Last Five Years” is no doubt attractive to theater companies that are low on cash, it is a uniquely constructed, emotionally revealing, absolutely exquisite song cycle that explores a failed marriage from opposite points of view and starting points. (A film version with Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan is about to go into production.)

It begins with the underemployed, twentysomething actress Cathy making sense of how her marriage to Jamie fell apart.

In the very next song, the fiction writer Jamie is shown at the very start of their relationship, elated to have met a “shiksa goddess.”

For the next 90 minutes, Cathy and Jamie take turns singing, with her moving backward in time toward the promising start of their relationship and him getting closer its painful demise.

Considering how many productions the musical has received since its premiere in 2002, its first major New York revival ought to have been better than the musically outstanding but depressingly sterile one now on display at Off-Broadway’s Second Stage, which Brown directed himself.

If you go: ‘The Last Five Years’ plays at Second Stage through May 12. 305 W. 43rd St., 2st.com.

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