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Sideways: The Play

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Rex Pickett’s novel, Sideways, was published in 2004. In that same year, and with the same title, it was made into a feature film. The movie went on to win an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay (though only director Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor are credited as screenwriters, not Pickett).

Now author Pickett has transformed his novel into a live staging, and under the inventive direction of Amelia Mulkey Sideways: The Play has found new life in its world premiere at Santa Monica’s Ruskin Theatre Company, through July 22. Like the novel and the film, Sideways: The Play has as its central characters two forty-something bachelors, supercilious Miles (a spot-on John Colella) and carefree Jack (a rakish Jonathan Bray).

Jack is scheduled to be married, and Miles is slated to be his good buddy’s best man. But before the nuptials are to be held, Miles – a wine connoisseur and would-be writer (with a book on the brink of publication) – and Jack – an actor and postmodern philistine – take off to tour the California wine country while having a two-man bachelor party and road-trip.

Jack has but one goal for himself and Miles on this sojourn: to attain physical intimacy with a woman who’s yet to be met; or, in Miles’ case, it’s reconnection with a lady named Maya (a naturalistic Julia McIlvaine), with whom he’s already acquainted and who works as a waitress at Miles’ favorite eatery and watering-hole, The Hitching Post.

When Maya sets up a double date with herself and her girlfriend, Terra (a spirited Cloe Kromwell), a fellow wine aficionado, Jack turns on the charm and hormones only to find Terra head-over-heels smitten with the self-serving womanizer. After several bouts of “intimacy” between Jack and Terra, Jack remains cluelessly dishonest with the vivacious Terra.

Meanwhile, the lugubrious Miles eventually becomes “intimate” with Maya. Yet when Maya reveals just how taken Terra is with Jack, Miles feels the need to confess that Jack is slated to be married in a matter of days with him, Miles, as the groom’s best man. Of course, this information changes the scenario and taints the relationships considerably.

Whether it’s called an off-the-wall conceit or an insightful slice-of-life, Sideways: The Play, like the novel and the film, is a credible tale that plays as if it were a true story. There are no heroes here, only people who want what they want and will pretty much do anything to provide for their purported needs. These characters are not noble but they appear to be real.

With sterling production values (sets by CJ Strawn and costumes by Lola Kelly) and a delightful ensemble (Kristelle Monterrosa, Hamilton Matthews, Paul Denk, and Carl Kocis) who make for quick and comedic scene-changes, Sideways: The Play is similar in theme and spirit to the movie, but, as playwright and novelist Pickett indicated in a brief pre-play conversation (on opening weekend Pickett was, appropriately enough, pouring pinot noir for audience members before the two and a half-hour show began), the play is really the novel set to stage.

SIDEWAYS: THE PLAY continues at the Ruskin Theatre Company – 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica – through July 22. Evening performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. For reservations, dial (310) 397-3244.



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.