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By 1947 that singular Southern playwright Tennessee Williams had already had one Broadway blockbuster, in the form of his autobiographically based The Glass Menagerie. Williams now—at age 36—was preparing for rehearsals of what would soon become his self-proclaimed masterwork, A Streetcar Named Desire.

At the time, all of the characters for Streetcar had been cast, save one: the crucial antagonist, Stanley Kowalski. Famed director Elia Kazan suggested an unknown 23 year-old actor—who had until then appeared in only a few plays—for the challenging role. His named was Marlon Brando.

Those are the true-life circumstances that inspired Gregg Ostrin’s inventively layered script, Kowalski (in its world premiere at Two Roads Theatre in Studio City, through September 18). Lucidly directed by Rick Shaw (who is also the show’s producer), and with a sterling cast of five perfectly-pitched performers, Ostrin’s play dramatizes that initial encounter between the celebrated scribe and the legendary method actor.

In the exposition and through the dramatic conflict of Kowalski we learn much about  each man, as well as a bit of the back-story of the making of A Streetcar Named Desire. For fans of Williams, Brando, and/or Streetcar this is like cat-nip to a feline; we can’t get enough. Moreover, even theatergoers with little knowledge of this thrilling theatrical triumvirate (playwright, play, and player) are bound to get caught in the current of the drama and the charisma of the players.

The facts of the story are accurately recorded in Ostrin’s Kowalski. Williams was taking a pre-season Broadway respite on Cape Cod; with him was his lover-boy, Poncho Rodriguez, and his close acquaintance, theater maven Margo Jones. Further, Brando reached Williams by bus at his vacation destination three days tardy for his scheduled audition with the playwright.

Though the factoids fit snuggly with the recorded history of American theater, Kowalski’s actual dialog is largely an invention of Ostrin’s imagination. No matter. The exchanges between the various characters are no mere flight-of-fantasy. Kowalski sounds and seems true-to-life. What’s more, Ostrin’s play-about-a-play pays homage to what is arguably the greatest play of the 20th century.

It is astonishing to witness Curt Bonnem incarnate the late playwright Williams. From his sophisticated and sissified Mississippi dialect to his brilliantly blatant way with words, Bonnem’s portrayal of Williams seems more like a channeling than a characterization.

But it is Ignacio Serricchio’s Marlon Brando that is the hugest surprise of the production. After all, what actor would dare attempt to embody the great Brando? Nevertheless, Serricchio takes that dare, succeeding admirably. With a devilish smile and the power of a youthful stallion, Serricchio’s interpretation of God’s gift to naturalism seems reminiscent and respectful of Brando, without being an exact impersonation of him.

Kowalski is blessed with an impressive support ensemble. Alexa Hamilton projects creative forcefulness and feminine gravitas as Margo Jones. Les Brandt is a combination of taut sexuality and foul unctuousness as volatile Poncho Rodriguez. And Sash Higgins is a fabulous find, playing Brando’s girlfriend, Jo, as a ditzy, dizzying delight.

Rand Sagers décor and set design, along with the lighting motif of designers Yana Shif, Krystal Maughan, and Jolynn Schmitt add palpable reality to “Kowalski.” You may, at play’s end, feel the urge to enthusiastically cry out: “Kowalski!”… “Kowalski!”

"Kowalski" continues at The Two Roads Theatre—4348 Tujunga Boulevard, Studio City—through September 18. Show times are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with Sunday performances at 7:30 p.m. For reservations, dial (818) 762 – 2282.For online ticketing, visit



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.