Evan Pappas, artistic director of the Argyle Theatre in Babylon, was killing time for all he’s worth, while father-son owners Mark and Dylan Perlman were in the audience, passing out candy. They’d just been talking about the first-year challenges of getting the theater up and running. Now they were dealing with one.
The Nov. 15 storm that was way worse than predicted had many of the performers running late, so instead of letting the intrepid patrons who made it to the theater on time sit around with nothing to do, the Perlmans played host while Pappas took to the stage for an informal question-and-answer session.
It's the sort of behavior that’s indicative of the group’s commitment to the community and to the theater, and while they acknowledge significant challenges, they are steadfast in their belief in the Argyle. “We’re in it for the long haul,” says Mark Perlman, who spent more than a year renovating the former movie theater with his son.
The venue opened in May with the Frank Loesser classic “Guys and Dolls,” and audiences have grown through word of mouth, solid marketing and some price adjustments. At one point, some balcony seats were reduced to $49, while the best orchestra seats remain $74 ($79 on Saturday). The opening production was followed by the crowd-pleasing “Hairspray” to lesser known works like “Peter and the Starcatcher” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” They’ve also just started a children’s theater, with tickets for “Harry Connick Jr.’s The Happy Elf,” running through Dec. 30, selling briskly. In January, they’ll put on “Spring Awakening,” followed in March by “The Producers.”
Not surprisingly, Dylan notes the biggest challenge has been “getting people in the door,” but he says response from patrons and the community has been overwhelmingly positive, with subscribers nearing 1,000. “This is having Broadway in our own village,” says Babylon resident and Argyle subscriber Patricia Kordecki, noting that she and her husband, Bobby, are theater fans who “don’t get into the city often enough.” But now, she says, “no trains, no hassle. This is the best thing that’s happened to Babylon Village.“
Once they get people in the seats, of course, they have to put on good shows and Mark says he is “very proud of the quality of the performances.” Casts, a mix of equity and non-union performers, love the theater, says Pappas. “I’m inundated with people who want to come work here.”
Looking ahead, the Perlmans and Pappas are finalizing the second season, always a difficult process for any theater. But with shows like “Starcatcher” and “Spring Awakening,” the Argyle has signaled that it’s up for taking risks. “We are getting this interesting reputation,” says Dylan, of a “theater that will do unique, challenging shows.”