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The Parisian Woman

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In 2008 Beau Willimon’s play, Farragut North, premiered on Broadway. Based on Willimon’s work with the Howard Dean presidential campaign of 2004, the Farragut script was later adapted by Willimon (with aide from Grant Heslov and George Clooney) into a screenplay for the film The Ides of March; when that movie was made, it was directed by and starred George Clooney. Though the play was more successful, dramatically speaking, than the languid and confusing film version, neither iteration of the story is especially memorable.

Now that Willmon has made a celebrity-scribe of himself, through his Netflix series House of Cards, he is again boldly asserting himself as a playwright in the world premiere of The Parisian Woman, at Costa Mesa’s South Coast Repertory Theater. Willimon, inspired by 19th century French dramatist Henri Becque’s La Parisienne, has updated and truncated Becque’s timeless conceit of love, power, and politics and placed it in present day Washington D.C.

With TV A-lister Dana Delany alongside the dependable Steven Culp and Steven Weber, and under Pam Mackinnon’s original direction, The Parisian Woman is a tale of Machiavellian dimensions with Delany playing coldhearted power spouse, Chloe, to the hilt of pragmatism (she even describes herself as a pragmatist), if not out-and-out corruption.

Culp convincingly inhabits the role of Peter, a high-level political insider with ties to the executive branch of the U.S. Government, who is a needy, capitulating man-child in the presence of the controlling Chloe (the trim, toying Delany makes this part her own). Meanwhile, Chloe’s husband Tom (Weber, portraying a career-focused trial attorney), with a good word from Peter to the American President, just might become the nation’s next attorney general.

When Chloe and Tom receive an invitation to a party thrown by Jeanette (Linda Gehringer in a juicy character turn), who’s just been appointed to head the U.S. Treasury and who is also a confidant of the President’s, Chloe and Tom see it as an opportunity to bolster Tom’s chances at gaining the cabinet position. What’s more, when Chloe meets Jeannette’s goal-obsessed young-adult daughter, Rebecca (Rebecca Moro in a pivotal part), the game is on and the crass manipulation unfolds in a manner that is surprising and, even, offensive.

Played out on a marvelously mutable set design (Marion Williams), with fetchingly contemporary costumes (David Kay Michelson) and effective lighting and sound designs (Lap Chi Chu and Cricket S. Myers, respectively), The Parisian Woman runs for an hour-and-a-half with no intermission.  Though it is a tale of amorality and D.C. opportunism, it is also a gripping theatrical experience, due in large part to an extraordinary cast, state-of-the-art stagecraft, and Willimon’s intriguing dramatization.

The Parisian Woman continues through May 5. South Coast Rep is located at 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Evening performances are Tuesday through Sundays at 7:45 p.m. Matinees are at Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations, call (714) 708-5555. For online ticketing and further information, 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.