The Last Five Years is not as straightforward as the title suggests. Jason Robert Brown's play, which makes its Ohio premiere at Dobama Friday, documents the story of a young novelist and a budding actress who meet, fall in love, marry, and separate. His story plays out forward, hers rolls backward; the couple shares the stage only in the middle, at their wedding. And all the dialogue is sung.
"Because this isn't told linearly, you ask yourself questions you wouldn't normally ask," says director Victoria Bussert. "Things become identified with specific people."
The two-person musical begins on the night of the pair's first date; it ends with their divorce. In between, audiences can spot familiar signs, Bussert says. "It's interesting to look at five years of a relationship and see where things are right and where things go wrong," she says. "Everybody is going to apply their own relationships to this show." The Last Five Years is at Dobama Theatre (1846 Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights) Friday through May 16. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $11 to $20, available by calling 216-932-3396. . -- Michael Gallucci
Graham Parker squeezes out a country record.
British pub-rocker/erstwhile Angry Young Man Graham Parker goes hillbilly on his new CD, Your Country. It shouldn't work. But in adopting a twang, employing a steel-guitar player, and singing songs about fairgrounds, Parker turns in his best album in 15 years. Add to that the fact that Parker wrote all but one of Country's 11 songs, and the question arises: Why didn't he do this sooner? The answer: He sorta has. Parker's canon is filled with the kinds of themes and characters that have dominated country music for more than 50 years: death, despair, and hard-drinkin' men at the end of their rope. Your Country is just more obvious because of its honky-tonk time signatures and front-porch instruments. Hear it for yourself when Parker plays the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Boulevard in Cleveland Heights) at 9 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15; call 216-241-5555. . -- Michael Gallucci
Local band unplugs and works new beat.
Second Shade's story is a familiar one on Cleveland's local-band circuit: Five high school buddies jam around town -- from Buddhapalooza to opening for Kenny Loggins -- for a couple years. Then, because of "musical differences," only singer (Ben Holt) and guitarist (Michael Skrajner) remain. Today, the duo is working the coffeehouse beat while looking for replacements to play the band's ethereal catalog. "It can be challenging," admits Skrajner of the unplugged gigs. "But sometimes we like the acoustic arrangement more than the original recording." Second Shade performs at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Enclave Coffee House, 4124 Erie Street in Willoughby. Admission is free. Call 440-953-0666 for more info. . -- Cris Glaser
Missionaries, a musical blending religious and Latino music, is based on letters and diaries written by three nuns, an archbishop, and a missionary who were raped and murdered by El Salvadoran militants in 1980. It runs Friday through May 9 at the Fine Arts Association's Corning Auditorium, 38660 Mentor Avenue in Willoughby. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $16 to $18; call 440-951-6637. -- Cris Glaser
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