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The Assassination of Leon Trotsky: A Comedy

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Though assassination is not typically a topic dealt with through a comedic perspective, 

Peter Lefcourt’s new play – The Assassination of Leon Trotsky: A Comedy – is a rare exception to this dramatic tendency. A political murder, after all, is usually fodder for tragedy (think of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar), but in the Theatre Planner’s world premiere production of Lefcourt’s Trotsky (at Los Angeles’ Odyssey Theatre, through July 28) we get a theatrical take that is fresh and unique, thanks to Lefcourt’s clever conceit and Director Terri Hanauer’s creative vision.

It also helps to lessen the impact of assassination that Lefcourt has set his script in a play within a play. As actors prepare for performance, we see them appear in the fully lit theater. They talk on cell phones and take care of their quotidian professional duties, such as talking to agents about upcoming gigs, etc. Before the play (the one within the play) begins, however, the cast is hit with nearly debilitating news: one of the actors has been fatally struck by a bus on his way to this “Very Off Broadway” premiere.

In the spirit of stage farces like Noises Off, the show goes on; but mishaps, misreadings, and a prevalence of monkey business unfolds as the shenanigans progress (or devolve). The faux play here features historic characters such as a gun-toting Diego Rivera (Joe J. Garcia channeling Edward G. Robinson); Frida Kahlo (Murielle Zuker sporting a thin, prickly, Kahlo-like mustache, but beautiful nonetheless); Natalya Sedova, Trotsky’s second wife (an elegant Holly Hawkins); and, of course, the titular Leon Trotsky (Joel Sweltow ably demonstrating his impressive range).

Additionally, indelible support is added by Ashley Platz (as Guadalupe) and Christopher Rivas (as Jesus). Moreover, Greyson Lewis, as the Author (of the script-within-a-script), adds a singular comedic presence as the much put-upon playwright who’s forced to take over the deceased actor’s multiple roles. Further, several performers have ample opportunity to exhibit their actorly wares by transgressing unexpectedly into monologues and dialogues from other renowned dramatists’ creations such as such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire (Platz’s Lady Macbeth and Garcia’s Stanley Kowalski are notable for the laughter their characterizations evoke from theatergoers).

Though the circumstances of Trotsky’s last days are accurately on display in Lefcourt’s play – Trotsky and his wife Natalya did live in Mexico with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo – the content and exchanges in the script are pure flights of fancy and imaginative conjectures. Indeed, playwright Lefcourt warns us in a program note to “Rest assured that the play has absolutely no redeeming social value. Should you find any hidden meaning in it, keep it to yourself.”

As the playwright predicted, this critic found no profound subtext here to be revealed, nor any hidden meanings, whatsoever. Instead, what can be reported is that The Assassination of Leon Trotsky: A Comedy is a theatrical romp that employees the crafts of a can-do cast and crew (Joel Daavid’s set design is eye candy; Kristen Anacker’s costumes are enchanting; Michael Gend’s lighting is indispensible; and Dino Herrmann’s sound motif gently conveys the disturbing cracks of gunshots, etc., without unduly unnerving audience members). While “Trotsky” is a lesser farce than the deservedly praised Noises Off, it is a treat to see these theater artists make this fever dream of a script come to life in a watchable two-hour production.

The Assassination of Leon Trotsky: A Comedy continues at the Odyssey Theatre, through July 28. The Odyssey is located at 2055 South Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles. Evening performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees are on Sundays at 3 p.m. For reservations, call (323) 965-7735. 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.