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In this edition of Culture Corner, Ellen Jarus Hanley looks at an out-of-the-way production that is worth your attention:
In an undistinguished strip mall behind a pizza joint, barely visible from the busy thoroughfare of Rubber Avenue in Naugatuck, a group of dedicated artists known as Phoenix Stage Company produce community theatre. The unassuming space — two adjoining storefronts — at first evokes more of a cineplex feel, due to the pervasive aroma of popcorn from the snack bar, the shooting-star motif of the wall-to-wall carpeting, and the fluorescent lavender upholstery of the 75 seats. It’s certainly an initmate space — perfect for PSC’s current offering, “The Last Five Years” by Jason Robert Brown.
Billed as a contemporary song-cycle musical, “The Last Five Years” is a one-act chronicle of a five-year relationship, completely sung by two characters: Jamie Wellerstein, an emerging writer, and Cathy Hyatt, a struggling actress. The couple’s story is cleverly told from both points of view, hers from the end to the beginning, his from beginning to end — a poignant and personal reflection on a failed marriage.
Alyssa Fontana’s understated, heartfelt Cathy is just the right counterpoint for Dan Porri’s expressive, passionate Jamie. Porri’s stage presence more than makes up for what he lacks in vocal skills. These two local performers capably perform this challenging piece, co-directed by Jane Coughlin and Sharon A. Wilcox with musical direction by Aaron J. Bunel.
“The Last Five Years” is a thoroughly satisfying and thought-provoking experience and does this community theatre group proud. It will run on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through June 26. Tickets are $22/adults, $18/students and seniors (age 60+). Call (203) 632-8546 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com.
For more information about Phoenix Stage Company, visit www.phoenixstagecompany.org.