Support Regional Professional Theater with Hampton Theatre Company’s ‘Ripcord’

Giovanni Sandoval and Laurie Atlas rehearse a scene from "Ripcord," opening March 17 at the Quogue Community Hall. Hampton Theatre Company
Giovanni Sandoval and Laurie Atlas rehearse a scene from “Ripcord,” opening March 17 at the Quogue Community Hall. Hampton Theatre Company

With such stellar performing arts productions put on regularly in East Hampton and Sag Harbor, some East Enders seem to forget that the Hamptons has another impressive professional theater across the canal: The Hampton Theatre Company (HTC). And they’re looking to wow with the premiere of their latest show, David Lindsay-Abaire’s Ripcord, on Thursday, March 17.

The play is described as a comedic clash over prime real estate in the fictional Bristol Place Senior Living Facility. Ripcord begins when the cantankerous Abby is forced to share her living space with Marilyn, a new arrival with an aggressively sunny disposition. What starts as a seemingly harmless bet between this odd couple, devolves into a riotous game of one-upmanship that yields tons of laughter but also deeper truths that each would rather stay private.

“I like plays that are very funny but that also have some deeper stuff going on in them — some deeper elements of the human condition and human experience — so that it’s not all dark but it’s not all funny either,” says HTC Board President Andrew Botsford of his decision to direct this particular, “hysterically funny” production, which he intends to direct “straight-up the way it was written.”

Botsford explains that HTC founding member Rosemary Cline suggested the play with artistic director Diana Marbury in mind for one of the principal roles. Unfortunately, due to complications with the COVID-19 pandemic, Marbury was unable to join the production, which meant the full cast was left up to open auditions and a bit of networking. While HTC productions often feature several returning favorites, Ripcord only includes one, Vincent Cinque, with the rest of the players making their HTC debut. Cinque, actor in Six Degrees of Separation and recipient of HTC’s Peter Marbury Scholarship in 2011 as a graduating Westhampton Beach High School senior pursuing performing arts in college, will star in multiple roles including that of Benjamin, Abby’s estranged son. The leading ladies of the show are Laurie Atlas as Abby and Claire Parrella-Curran as Marilyn. Rounding out the cast are Matthew Schiavoni as Scotty the attendant, Lindsey Sanchez as Marilyn’s daughter Colleen and Giovanni Sandoval as Colleen’s husband Derek.

Vincent Cinque and Claire Parrella-Curran rehearse a scene from "Ripcord." Hampton Theatre Company
Vincent Cinque and Claire Parrella-Curran rehearse a scene from “Ripcord.”
Hampton Theatre Company

Lighting design is by Sebastian Paczynski, sound by Seamus Naughton, costumes by Teresa Lebrun and set design by Ricky Bottenus and Botsford. These designers will be especially important to this production, as the show’s characters won’t stay in the assisted living facility for long and will require the use of tricks like sliding set pieces and a back wall projector to portray some of their crazier stunts.

“It’s a little theatrical magic, which is always fun for audiences and for the people making theater, too, to be able to do a little stagecraft to get the imagination going and suspend disbelief as we go to other places without having to build a whole other set for it,” Botsford says.

“By being a professional company, and paying the people what we’ve been able to pay, we’ve been able to bring some really superior set design and sets, lighting design, sound design, directors and actors, and the quality of the work by having professionals … has been a different level from what else is on offer out there,” Botsford continues. “As we’ve gone forward, we’ve really capitalized on that and become a small, professional regional theater.”

What many don’t realize about this small professional theater company is that it was founded as a community theater company: Westhampton Community Theatre. However, the team of founders quickly realized that nearly all of them had professional training, professional experience or both, so branding themselves a nonprofit community theater didn’t make all that much sense. They later rebranded as the Hampton Theatre Company and boasted a paid staff and team of designers, as well as equity actors whenever possible.

Despite this shift, the community mission remained. “Rather than be a community theater, we want to build a theater community of audiences, actors and people who like to make theater,” Botsford says. “We love the applause, but it’s not about the applause. It’s about bringing the community together, bringing the project together, creating a community on the stage and then having that energetic and spiritual interaction with audiences whether they’re connecting to what the playwright wrote, what the director saw in it, what the actors bring to it, what the design brings to it. Having that all come together — it’s a gift and a blessing to be able to have that opportunity to do that.”

For the safety of this theater community, ticket holders will be required to show a photo ID and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the day of the performance they are attending. Also, face coverings must be worn at all times while inside the theater, including during the show.

A self-proclaimed “theater fanatic,” Botsford has experienced the great joys of directing, acting and going to see theater, and he knows that while the safety precautions can be a bit of a drag, they’re absolutely worth it for the chance to experience great theater. “Make the effort,” is his advice to prospective theatergoers. “They’ll be really richly rewarded if they do.”

Hampton Theatre Company presents Ripcord March 17 through April 3, Thursday to Sunday, at the Quogue Community Hall. A special talkback with the cast takes place after the March 25 evening show. Tickets are $36, and discounts are available to students, seniors, veterans and Native Americans. Call 631-653-8955 or visit hamptontheatre.org for more information.

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