You don’t need to tune in to TV Land to see the stars of your favorite ‘70s and ‘80s shows.
Four iconic actors will take the stage in Dan Clancy’s comedy “Middletown,” opening Nov. 17 at Actors Playhouse.
The play, a co-production of the Coral Gables company and GFour Productions, features Loretta Swit (“M*A*S*H”), Didi Conn (“Grease,” “Benson”), Don Most (“Happy Days”) and Adrian Zmed (“TJ Hooker,” “Grease 2”), in the story of a decades-long friendship between two couples, Peg and Tom and Dotty and Don.
Clancy, a seasonal Fort Lauderdale resident, originally wrote the play years ago as a fundraiser for a “barn theater” in Cherry Grove, Fire Island, where he and his husband had a home. The theater, established in the 1940s, is one of the longest-running LGBT theater spaces in the country, Clancy said.
A retired school teacher, Clancy was used to whipping out short plays for his students on a deadline.
“They asked me to write something for the fundraiser, but number one, it had to feature people from the community, because that’s how they sell tickets. Number two, it couldn’t be longer than 50 minutes, because there’s a cocktail party afterward and people get thirsty,” he recalled.
So, Clancy quickly crafted a play about two couples in their 60s that could be read from music stands, and the ups and downs of their relationship. The fundraiser was a success and word quickly spread. Another theater company in Napa asked to mount the play, with some caveats.
“It was originally called ‘A Quartet.’ We used music stands, but they were concerned people would think they’re coming to see a music program,” he noted. “They also thought that a fundraiser requiring people to drive up to two hours, 50 minutes wasn’t long enough. Could I make the show longer? ‘Middletown’ became 90 minutes.”
After a couple more successful productions, Clancy submitted the play to the Jan McArt New Play Reading Series, an incubator based at Lynn University in Boca Raton, where it received workshops and a staged reading before a large audience. He credits workshops like McArt’s for giving playwrights real opportunities to listen and see their works performed and gain input from seasoned directors and actors.
“When I wrote [“Middletown”], I thought it was a nice piece for the community … they laugh, they cry, but I never thought it would have any life outside of Cherry Grove. But, it just grew and grew,” Clancy said.
A subsequent production at the Jewish Community Center in West Boca Raton was attended by producer Ken Greenblatt, who recommended the show to his son, producer and director Seth Greenleaf. The multiple Tony-winning duo made “Menopause the Musical” a global sensation seen by millions and they had a formula for “Middletown.”
Since then, they have tapped beloved actors like Swit and Most for productions across the country, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic opening in South Florida at the award-winning Actors Playhouse.
Clancy remains modest about the success of the show.
“They [Greenblatt and Greenleaf] made some smart decisions. I know nothing about the commercial part of theater, I write and tell stories. That’s all I can do and what happens afterward, well, it’s pure luck that a producer showed up at the JCC and decided to produce ‘Middletown.’”
Dan Clancy’s “Middletown” will be performed Nov. 17 – Dec. 12 at Actors Playhouse in Coral Gables. Tickets are $40 at ActorsPlayhouse.org.