The director was a longtime fan of “The Last Five Years” — he’d actually pitched it to another theater on the morning of the day Signature told him it would be taking the “Crimes” slot — and had even discussed the show with Signature’s associate artistic director, Matthew Gardiner, citing James Gardiner and Weaver as his ideal cast for the two-person production. (He has worked with both actors at the Folger Theatre.)
Posner, who typically directs about six shows a year, said he doesn’t have too much trouble shifting gears. “I’m used to holding more than one project in my head,” he said. He also explained that, although the show is a musical, “it’s not [like] suddenly doing ‘Guys and Dolls.’ It’s a chamber musical with two actors and 14 songs. You don’t suddenly do a major musical-theater piece in two weeks. That would be crazy.”
A certain kind of person might enjoy the idea of an impossible deadline — it sounds like one of those “We need $10,000 by Friday or we’ll never save the gym/school/dance hall/cheerleading squad!” movies — but that person is not Posner. “The Last Five Years” appeals in part because it’s “a relatively simple, relatively straightforward piece that’s going to live or die on the strength of the performers,” he said. “It’s just two people singing the songs, and you get involved with them or not.”
With its miniature cast and contemporary score, it “doesn’t do the sweeping, grand storytelling that we associate with the grand Broadway musical,” said Posner, which makes it a just-right fit for Signature’s space. “It’s an intimate story about two individuals, so it wants to have that kind of intimacy.”
“The Last Five Years” was not a long-running Broadway hit, but according to Posner, “if you’re a person under 40 who loves musical theater, you know and love ‘The Last Five Years’ because it’s a kind of standard for what’s possible for telling the truth onstage.”
April 2-28, Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington. 703-820-9771, www.signature-theatre.org.
Woolly’s next season
In Woolly Mammoth’s 34th season, “every play has a kind of secret inside,” said artistic director Howard Shalwitz.
The 2013-14 lineup, titled “America’s Tell-Tale Heart,” features diversity behind the scenes — female and African American playwrights and directors — and unifying threads onstage, specifically our national propensity for glossing over issues we’d rather not discuss and finding the humor in what Shalwitz calls “the dark truths and dark questions about our country.”