The story is neatly divided into two parts. The first part will be lighthearted and straightforward compared to the second, which will wrap things up in a realistic mixed-bag sort of way. This structure is most common in musicals. It comes in two flavors: the rise-and-fall variety, which has everything on the up-and-up in the first act and, in the second act, shoots it all to hell; and the parallel variety, where the darker, more intricate and realistic second act makes some sort of point about the first act.

Often, the dark turn will be heralded by the last moments of the first act. A [[TimeSkip sizable period of time between the two acts]] is also commonplace.

There must be a change in tone for this trope to apply. Andrew Lloyd Webber's ''Phantom of the Opera'', for instance, divides its two acts at a good stopping place in a continuous progression, nothing more, and so this trope doesn't apply to it.
----
!!Examples:

!!!Rise And Fall

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: Film ]]

* ''{{Titanic}}'' (VHS edition): the first cassette ends with the crash and Mr. Andrews' pronouncement of doom.
* ''TheSoundOfMusic'', with the second 'act' beginning after the marriage and the Nazi takeover.
** In the stage version, "Climb Every Mountain" is the Finale Act One and the marriage and Anschluss take place in the middle of the second act. So the turning point turns out to be less to do with dramatic events than with Maria's realisation of herself as a character.
* ''{{Scarface}}:'' Act One is about Tony Montana's rise to the top of the Miami underworld, while Act Two is how everything goes straight to hell.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Literature ]]

* This is in ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'' with the secretive guerrilla war, and then the final story arc.
* This accurately describes the entire ''Literature/HarryPotter'' series, with the turning point being ''[[Literature/HarryPotterAndTheGobletOfFire Goblet of Fire]]'' where Voldemort is reborn and suddenly AnyOneCanDie. Fittingly, ''AVeryPotterMusical'' has the act break right in that very spot, and while it remains a light-hearted parody, the characters still feel like they're going through hell.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Live-Action TV ]]

* The television show ''{{Skins}}'' keeps the same cast for two seasons before starting over with a completely new cast and story; each "generation," as they are called, tends to roughly follow the Rise and Fall pattern, with a somewhat simpler, sunnier first season followed by a DarkerAndEdgier second season where things start falling apart.
* ''{{Stargate}}'' shows split their seasons into two parts, often having some kind of cliffhanger or game-changer before the intermission.
* Many a U.S. SitCom up until the 1990s used a two act structure, with a plot twist at the commercial break and a second act where the ZanyScheme fell apart, restoring the [[StatusQuoIsGod status quo]].

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Theatre ]]

* ''Theatre/TheRiseAndFallOfTheCityOfMahagonny''
* ''Theatre/{{Camelot}}''; for that matter, the Arthurian mythos and all works based on its whole.
* ''FiddlerOnTheRoof'', with the Cossacks' invasion of the wedding as the turning point.
* ''Theatre/{{Wicked}}''. Act One details the college years of Elphaba and Galinda at Shiz University and shows the growth of the girls' friendship. The second act, opening several months after the close of the first is comparatively darker, as the [[MaliciousSlander darker side of Ozian politics]] becomes apparent, as [[spoiler: several characters experience the sometimes [[AndIMustScream horrific]] consequences of permanent magic]], and as each of the two leads deals with the repercussions of the [[ToBeLawfulOrGood decisions]] that she made during "Defying Gravity": [[HeroWithBadPublicity Elphaba]] is defamed throughout Oz as a wicked witch and [[spoiler: watches all of her good intentions backfire until her HeroicBSOD in "NoGoodDeedGoesUnpunished"]], and Glinda, [[SlaveToPR obliged]] to go along with the Wizard and Madam Morrible's propaganda against her best friend, finds, deconstructing her celebrated position, that her happy ending is [[StepfordSmiler not at all]] [[WasItReallyWorthIt what she expected]] [[LonelyAtTheTop it to be]].
* ''Theatre/AvenueQ'': Both halves are funny, but by the end of Act 1 most of the characters have fundamentally screwed up somehow; Act 2 focuses on them realising what they've done wrong and making amends.
* ''Theatre/PaintYourWagon''
* Shakespeare's tragedies tend to go this route, particularly ''RomeoAndJuliet''. The first part, taking up Acts 1 and 2 and the first half of Act 3, is your basic tragicomic affair, but the second part, after Tybalt kills Mercutio and Romeo kills Tybalt in vengeance, is where it all really goes to hell.
** Bernstein was aware of this. In West Side Story, he puts the Rumble (where the deaths of Riff and Bernardo parallel those of Mercutio and Tybalt) just before the interval.
* ''Literature/{{Ragtime}}'': Where Act 1 is an endearing tribute to the pratfalls and triumphs of the oughts (with an against-all-odds love story to boot), Act 2 ''begins'' with the prescient child-narrator dreaming about (soon to occur) explosions and with Coalhouse [[spoiler: firing a rifle indiscriminately from a clocktower]].
* Music/JeffWayne's ''[[Music/JeffWaynesMusicalVersionOfTheWarOfTheWorlds The War of the Worlds]]''; Act I describes the conquest of Earth by the Martians, and Act II its aftermath.
* ''Music/JesusChristSuperstar'': the break comes between Jesus's lament for Jerusalem and Pilate's first appearance. It's all dark, but the second act is darker than the first.
* In ''Theatre/LittleShopOfHorrors'', the first act ends after Orin's death-the first point at which Seymour really kills.
* ''MerrilyWeRollAlong'' purposely inverts this trope; since the plot runs backwards, Act I is where Frank's life has already gone to hell, whilst Act II is sees him becoming younger and thus more promising and optimistic.
* ''Theatre/IntoTheWoods'' wraps up its massive FairyTale {{Crossover}} as neat and tidy as a military-school bunkroom in the first act, and then goes into the repercussions of everyone's means of getting their {{happy ending}}s with a far-less-defined sense of what to do, brought home by [[spoiler: killing the Narrator]].
!!!Parallel

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Anime and Manga ]]

* Much like ''{{Into the Woods}}'', the anime ''Anime/PrincessTutu'', the first season has dark moments, but is overall a happy MagicalGirl romp through fairy tale tropes with a ballet twist. The season even ends in a way that makes it seem like the ending of a typical fairytale, with [[spoiler:Mytho and Princess Tutu dancing happily together after their victory against [[DarkMagicalGirl Princess Kraehe]]]]. The second season, however, seems more like a ''deconstruction'' of a fairytale, with [[spoiler:Mytho being poisoned by Raven's blood and becoming a villain]], character's motivations being questioned and dark backstories revealed. Edel's CatchPhrase--"May those who follow their fate find happiness, may those who defy it be granted glory"--takes on a whole new meaning when looking at the two seasons of the show.

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: Film ]]

* ''Film/ThePrincessBride'', with the turning point being Westley's capture.
* ''LifeIsBeautiful''. First half, light-hearted romantic-comedy. Second half, heartbreaking [[{{Dramedy}} tragi-comedy]] set in a concentration camp.
* Creator/AkiraKurosawa was quite fond of this trope:
** ''Film/{{Ikiru}}''. The first half focuses on the protagonist, Watanabe, grappling with his terminal cancer diagnosis. The second half takes place at [[spoiler:Watanabe's wake, where we learn of the good he did during his final months.]]
** ''Film/HighAndLow''. The first act is about ransoming with a kidnapper. The second act is about finding the kidnapper and bringing him to justice.
* ''Film/{{Melancholia}}'' is divided into two chapters, of which the second one is more gloomy.
* The narrative of ''MulhollandDrive'' breaks down into two distinct parts.
* ''HeLovesMeHeLovesMeNot'' starts off light-hearted, but turns scary after the PlotTwist.
* ''Film/FullMetalJacket''. The first half takes place at boot camp. The second half takes place on the actual battlefield.
* ''TheLionKing''. The first half of the movie is about Simba's childhood and Scar's plot to become King. The second half is adult Simba coming to terms with his guilt and grief and deciding to reclaim his throne from Scar.
** The [[Theatre/TheLionKing musical]] similarly follows this thread by ending Act 1 with Hakuna Matata and the reveal of Adult Simba.

[[/folder]]

[[folder: Theater ]]


* ''The Fantasticks'' has its two acts explore the difference between forbidden love and real love.
* ''{{RENT}}'', complete with a shift in storytelling pace (the first act takes place in a single night, and the second act takes an entire year).
* ''A Madhouse in Goa'' by Martin Sherman.
* ''{{Theatre/Dreamgirls}}''. The first act is about the girls' rise to stardom and subsequent challenges, and ends with Effie being kicked out of the group as her replacement is brought in. The second act opens 8 years later. [[spoiler: Deena and Curtis are married, and Effie is a single mom on welfare with Curtis' child, and decides to give a shot at a solo career.]]
* ''WaitingForGodot'' subverts this by having the second act be more or less the same as the first, without much difference in tone. Hence the reviewer who said that it is "a play in which nothing happens, twice."
* ''SpringAwakening'' is a curious case since although most of the tragedy happens in Act II, the real shift in storytelling is actually in the middle of Act I, right around where Moritz flunks and Melchior and Wendla's romance takes a serious turn. However the two acts do complement each other nicely as Act I is about sex (i.e. life) and Act II is about death.
* ''Theatre/SundayInTheParkWithGeorge''. Act I ends with the completion of Georges Seurat's most famous painting; Act II picks up after a TimeSkip of ''nearly a century'' and explores the 20th century artistic struggles of Georges's IdenticalGrandson.
* ''Heathen Valley'' has a very optimistic ending to act one, where everything seems to be going right. Then act two starts up with tenser undercurrents, leading to [[DownerEnding the end]].
----