New theater group boldly defies death with trio of one-act comedies

It’s shortly after 7 p.m. Monday and Tod Ackley is already sound asleep in bed. As he wakes from a cat nap to catch up on the day, he admits he looks like the walking dead. Ackley — better known to many in the Whidbey theatre community by his stage name Bif Dangerfield — has been busy running around Seattle gathering lighting and audio equipment for the upcoming trio of award-winning comedies known collectively as “Death Defying Acts,” which opens Friday at the Deer Lagoon Grange.

Dangerfield is on overload as a co-producer with Richard Evans and as an actor in two of the three one-act-comedies.

Dangerfield hasn’t made an appearance on the local stage since 2000, and then it was only to be off-stage in the director’s chair. He can’t wait to be back.

“This material and these people made it worthwhile,” he said. “It was something I felt I could get behind.”

The three plays within Death Defying Acts are: “An Interview” by David Mamet, “Hotline’ by Elaine May, and “Central Park West” by Woody Allen.

“An Interview” takes place in hell where Bif Dangerfield plays an attorney damned to the hellfires for eternity. David Gignac is the agent of the devil whose duty it is to interrogate the sleazy lawyer and make him admit the truth about his life and career.

In Woody Allen’s “Central Park West” it’s autumn and Kira Keeney is the well-to-do psychiatrist who discovers her husband is having an affair with her best friend, Maureen Masterson. Meanwhile, Richard Evans plays the husband who hates psychiatrists and is planning to run away with college student Meara Aubin. Roy Feirin is the best friend’s husband.

During Elaine May’s “Hotline” Cynthia Smithers is the neurotic woman who calls a suicide prevention center and ends up talking to a counselor on his first day of the job. Bif Dangerfield is the uncomfortable fellow on the end of the line who is a little overwhelmed. Dwight Zehm is head of the sucide prevention unit, Dr. Russell and Steve Smith is the delivery man who unsuspectingly knocks on the neurotic woman’s door.

Defying death is looming throughout.

“It all comes on quick and will really give the audience something to think about as they drive home,” Dangerfield said.

In one night, audiences will get a three-in-one deal of hilariously dark comedy.

“It’s great because they’re all constructed differently with different characters and storylines, but they all are loosely constructed around the theme of defying death,” Gignac said.

Dangerfield and Evans have worked closely on numerous stage projects, including Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “American Buffalo”, and Evans’ original “Wings of the Termite,” “Club Ded,” and “Crime x 2,” often with Dangerfield on stage and Evans at the helm as director.

The duo and Theater Now! company members have worked closely with Grass Roots to be able to bring the production to the intimate setting of the Deer Lagoon Grange Hall.

Evans, and others integral in the history of theater on Whidbey have a history of forming new theater ensembles to get the opportunity to work with who they choose and put on a production when they choose. Thus why there exists the newly formed “Theater Now!

“It’s just such a busy schedule with actors involved in many productions at once,” Evans said.

A few of these organic theatre companies include Plasma Productions, Bad Boys Productions, Sienna/Speak Easy Productions and the long-standing Island Theater. In addition to the requirements for “Death Defying Acts Dangerfield has been busy lately bicycling between audio engineering jobs at Seattle’s ACT Theatre and the University of Washington. Evans has been frantically marketing his recently premiered film “Harry Monument”.

Evans, who will also direct the comedies, looks forward to seeing newcomer Kira Keeney and completely fresh-faced newcomers Smith and Aubin in the mix with Whidbey Island stage perennials like Gignac, Smithers, Zehm, Masterson, Feiring, and of course, Dangerfield and Evans.

Evans and crew look forward to transforming the small Deer Lagoon Grange into an intimate 80-seat theatre.

“I love working in small venues where they are intimate and bring the audience closer to the stage,” Evans said.

“The transformation that will take place is amazing,” said Nancy White, a member of the “Death Defying” stage crew.

Tuesday the “Daeth Defying Acts” cast and crew were busy breaking down sets in Evan’s garage and transporting them to the Deer Lagoon Grange for the night’s projected technical rehearsal.

It doesn’t look like Ackley, famously known as Bif Dangerfield, will get any sleep soon.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 22
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates