Realistic look at love hits Forest Grove stage

Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTOS - In the unconventional The Last Five Years, the shows only two characters meet only once on stage -- at their wedding in the middle of the show.Theatre in the Grove will present six performances over two weekends of the two-person musical, “The Last Five Years,” as a pre-regular-season special event Sept. 5 to 7 and Sept. 12 to 14.

“The Last Five Years” is directed by and stars Theatre in the Grove veterans, Jenny Hauser, who played Roxy in TITG’s “Chicago,” and James W. Grimes, who was Sky Masterson in last season’s “Guys and Dolls.”

The two met in a production of “Grease” seven years ago, when Hauser shared the soundtrack from the show and told Grimes, “Someday I want to do this musical.”

And she wanted Grimes to do it with her.

Three years ago they began casting about for ways to launch a production of “The Last Five Years,” and worked with TITG’s Jeanna Vandyke to schedule the musical as a pre-season production.

With a cast of two, the play didn’t exactly fit TITG’s 45-year tradition of grand musical extravaganzas with many singers and dancers.

The play by Jason Robert Brown, who recently won a Tony for the Broadway musical, “The Bridges of Madison County,” follows Cathy and Jamie, two New Yorkers who fall in and out of love over the course of five years.

From first date to final good-bye, the award-winning play chronicles the highs and lows of modern love and marriage. The show’s unconventional structure consists of Cathy telling her story backwards while Jamie tells his story chronologically. The two characters meet only once, at their wedding in the middle of the show.

“The story stays with you,” said Grimes. “Each character paints themselves in black and white, but there’s a lot of gray. Both people have personality flaws that make it impossible to have a successful relationship.”

With the play’s focus on time and relationships, Hauser and Grimes will use minimal costumes changes and a versatile set that serves as a dock, a front porch, a bed and a stage.

Before the play begins, two clocks will be ticking away as the audience members find their seats.

“And, when the show is over, I hope the audience is asking, ‘Is it over already?’” Grimes said. “I hope time disappears and they enjoy themselves.”

A teacher at Neil Armstrong Middle School for 17 years, Grimes tapped his experience as an instructor of video production, computer-aided drafting, robotics and computer game programing to fashion a rear-screen projection system, which will show video clips.

“It’s made from “duct tape, rope and a shower curtain” to help the audience track the story, he added.

Hauser and Grimes will be supported by a small string orchestra comprised of two Pacific University music majors, a recent high school graduate, a current high school senior, one of Grimes’ former students, and two professional musicians from Portland.

For Hauser, the production is a 10-year “dream come true,” and the music, Grimes said, is what put “The Last Five Years” on his bucket list of plays.

Interestingly enough, a film version of “The Last Five Years” will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival during the first weekend of the TITG production, Grimes said. The two actors, both with extensive theater backgrounds, collaborated fully on the production, but Grimes said it takes 20 people, including musicians and stage technicians to really make the show happen, even though only the two of them are on stage.

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