ACT, a popular and successful new theater in Ridgefield, was shut down halfway through its second season because of COVID-19. “We canceled everything, so it was a huge hit,” said artistic director Daniel C. Levine, who pointed out that this Equity professional theater didn’t start out in a basement or church hall, but went all out with a full-fledged theater facility. “We’re small with 180 seats and we’re too new to be eligible for grants, and we don’t have endowments. We were terrified to do nothing. We didn’t want to lose our momentum,” said Levine.
The theater transitioned to virtual presentations, but now ACT is about to open its doors to a live audience for the upcoming production of “The Last Five Years.” Knowing that it’s small, the theater can do things safely. “We’ve worked hard with Equity to open in October. Equity is even more strict than the state. They care about their members and have detailed guidelines. They even hired OSHA to make sure safety is a priority.”
When talk about doing a play surfaced, the realization that doing plays was not ACTS’ thing also came about. The theater has been doing musicals since it first opened its doors and they were doing them well. They started thinking of small musicals and “The Last Five Years,” which was on their list to do in the future became the perfect musical to do now.
“Once we decided to do the show, we knew we wanted to do it safely. We knew doing it completely in-house would be safe,” Levine said. Both he and Katie Diamond, the executive director, have Broadway experience and both play the leading roles. Bryan Perri is ACT’s music director and will play keyboard. The actors will change whatever props are used and the turntable stage will be a great asset for the play’s unconventional structure.
While the play is clever, smart and sophisticated, this musical is not well known. Its structure is unique in how this couple looks at their relationship. The young male writer recalls how they came together from the start and moves the story forward, while she, a struggling actress, tells their story in reverse-chronological order starting from the end of their marriage.
In preparing for the role, Levine has been talking to writers because he wants to completely understand his character. “I’m obsessed with the show. It’s like when I direct, I think, eat and breathe the show. I’m not as concerned about learning lines as I am about how do I tell this story? There are so many ways.”
By the time the show opens on Oct. 28, there’s a good chance that as many as 50 people will be allowed in the theater. Currently 20 people are allowed with the socially distant seating chart that gives everyone plenty of safe space. In addition to the live audience, tickets will be available for livestreaming the musical. “This is not about making money; but we don’t want to lose money on it. This is about doing what we do,” stated the enthusiastic actor/director. Pleased that so many patrons are already hungry to get back into the theater and buying tickets, Levine is encouraged and appreciates the loyalty of the theater’s patrons. The show opens on Oct. 28 and plays through Nov. 15 on Thursday through Sunday. For live in-person or livestreamed tickets, call the box office: 475-215-5497.