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Theater Review: ACT’s ‘Last Five Years’ A Gorgeous Duet Of Two Hearts



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RIDGEFIELD — ACT of CT is the first Equity theater in the country to be approved to reopen with a long running indoor musical. The company has jumped through considerable and costly hoops to ensure a safe, secure, and comfortable venue to which to invite a socially distanced audience to thoroughly enjoy Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years.

The show offers a gorgeous duet of two hearts as they come together and fall apart.

Katie Diamond as Cathy Hiatt and Daniel C. Levine as Jamie Wellerstein play young lovers who tell the story of their relationship through opposite time lines.

Cathy begins at the end, heartbroken. Jamie enters in the beginning, ebullient and head over heels for his shiksa girlfriend. From there, they move toward the culmination of their relationship in the tender and hopeful “The Next Ten Minutes.”

Joining in marriage, with a twinge of doubt, they continue to unravel in disparate directions, as Cathy moves toward the sweet sensation of new love while Jamie becomes disillusioned and strays.

Diamond’s rendition of “Still Hurting” as the musical opens was stunning. Her performance immediately captured the audience and was deeply moving.

Levine quite literally bounces on stage as he revels in the dawn of new love. His energy is captivating and he moderates it superbly as the passion erodes.

Both of these highly skilled, vocally gifted actors harness their considerable talents to fully portray a union that cannot tolerate the imbalance of their individual successes. The theater resonates with both the somber and joyful expressions of their characters.

The staging by Levine, who also serves as the production’s director, is tightly confined, then spread out as the couple unravels at either end.

The set, designed by Ryan Howell, is a perfect backdrop of simple city housing, providing context without being overbearing.

Musical director Bryan Perri brings his brilliance to bear for this production. The nuance of notes, the accompanying strings, played by David Restivo and Melissa Westgate, as well as Perri’s superb piano skills all add layers to the emotional pull of this piece.

No stone was left unturned in preparing the theater to receive an audience. Kudos to the staff and board of ACT for their generosity, attention to detail, and compliance with regulations to make this a beautiful evening at the theater. It is no small challenge to stage a musical.

Tacking on added precautions required by current circumstances reflects the value ACT places on this art form, as well as a desire to serve their community. They are to be congratulated for a job exceedingly well done.

Performances — live and livestreaming — continue through November 15, Thursday through Sunday evenings and Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Socially distanced seating has been arranged for those who would like to attend a live performance. A limited number of livestream tickets are also available for each performance, for those who prefer to view from home.

Visit actofct.org/the-last-five-years to view the seating chart and/or to begin reservations.

Following an “extended intermission”/temporary pandemic closure, ACT of Connecticut reopened on October 28 with a production of The Last Five Years. Director Daniel C. Levine, left, co-stars as Jamie Wellerstein, with Katie Diamond playing Cathy Hiatt in Jason Robert Brown’s musical. —photo courtesy ACT of Connecticut
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