Donny Most and Didi Conn are familiar faces and familiar names. Most, you may remembers as Ralph Malph from the ABC series "Happy Days." Conn is best known as the bubble-gum chewing, pink-haired Frenchy in the film Grease."
Now, they are in Coral Gables for a run of Dan Clancy's "Middletown" at Actors' Playhouse through Dec. 12. The play follows two married couples, Peg and Tom Hogan and Dotty and Don Abrams, and is staged without a set or many props. It has only music stands and a chair or stool behind each of the stands. The actors read directly from scripts, as if, Clancy explains, they are reading from the book of their own lives.
Most and Conn are eager to be back on stage with "Middletown" after they had performed it in productions from Bucks County to Chicago. Chicago was in the midst of its run when it was closed due to theaters being shuttered for COVID-19.
miamiartzine.com sits down with the two stars and asks them about coming to South Florida, their characters, and their very memorable star power.
miamiartzine: Tell me about your characters in "Middletown"?
Donny Most: His first name is Don coincidentally. I enjoy playing him. He's this blue collar guy and I grew up in Brooklyn, so I knew people like Don. There's a lot of humor in the play, but there are some beautiful heartwarming places in the piece as well.
Didi Conn: I play Peg, but I have done the other role, Dotty. The Dotty role gets all the laughs, but the part of Peg I like so much is that she gets the one to tell the story. She begins the story and ends it. I played Dotty when Cindy ("Laverne & Shirley") Williams was Peg. And in another show when Sandy Duncan was Peg and another time when Sally Struthers played Peg. [In Middletown at Actors' Playhouse, Loretta ("M*A*S*H") Swit plays Dotty.]
miamiartzine: It really is your star power that will draw audiences to a new play – a play they've never heard of, don't you think?
DM: There is a built in relationship already with these characters that you feel you know and you like them. Maybe it does give the play a head start. If it was maybe another cast, you would have to build that likeability. It might take a little time, but with people familiar with us, right from the get go it's there. The interesting thing is that several minutes into the play, I think people forget about who are old characters were and they get into the new characters. I think also a lot of time has passed since we did those shows. And we all hit the ground running with that relationship and the audience shifts gears immediately into who these new characters are.
DC: The truth of the matter is we have been in people's living rooms for many years. They feel as if they know us. On television, I was in Benson and people know me from "Grease." We're as happy to see the audience as they are to see us and the theme of the play is about friendship. We feel like we are coming in to a theater to an audience of friends and they feel the same about us. That's where they relate to the cast members and how we feel about them, well they've been our audience for years.
miamiartzine.com: Have you spent time in South Florida/Miami?
DM: My grandparents had a place in Fort Lauderdale and my mom had a place around there for a year. I spent different vacation periods when I was working and I'd have time off and I'd go to see my grandparents when I was younger. I haven't been there in a while. My wife had an aunt that live in Palm Beach and a cousin in West Palm Beach. I have never been to Coral Gables, no.
DC: Well, honestly, my house in New York got smacked by Hurricane Ida and you know about flooding from living where you do. But this was unprecedented what happened and we had three feet of water in our basement. The last two months we have had no kitchen. My husband (composer David Shire, they have been married since 1982), has been working in a closet with his desk. So getting away is going to be nice to just get a breath of fresh air. Are there any good Italian restaurants in Coral Gables? We love Italian.
miamiartzine: What have you been working on lately.
DM: I've been playing a lot of different roles in movies and television from a pastor to a polygamist to a prison guard and a career criminal all in the past year.
DC: I just did a pilot for Amazon called "Shelter" based on Harlan Coben's Mickey Bolitar books. Two weeks ago, I finished a television movie called "One December Night" that's airing on the Hallmark channel. The oldest summer stock theater, the Forestburgh Playhouse in the Catskills, was having a festival of new plays. They said they heard I was writing something, so I'll be working on my play while I'm in Florida.
“Middletown” by Dan Clancy. Nov. 17–Dec. 12, 2021; 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays (no matinee on Saturday, Nov. 20). Actors’ Playhouse at The Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. $40–$90. Audience members age 12 and older are required to provide one of the following: a negative COVID-19 PCR result for a test conducted within 72 hours OR a negative COVID-19 Antigen result for a test done within 24 hours before the show OR proof of full COVID-19 vaccination. All audience members are required to wear a face covering at all times, “except when eating and drinking in designated areas,” according to the theater website. A $25 livestream ticket is available for 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20 (305) 444-9293; actorsplayhouse.org