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Trudy and Max in Love

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Trudy and Max in Love, a new play by Zoe Kazan (granddaughter of famed director Elia Kazan), is now in its world premiere on the Julianne Argyros Stage of Costa Mesa's South Coast Repertory, through January 26. The plotline traces the start-up romance between Max, a successful author, who’s unmarried, and Trudy, a young writer diligently drafting her second novel; she is contentedly, if not passionately, coupled with a husband. Max and Trudy initially encounter one another at a members-only writer’s room in Brooklyn and develop a quick collegial friendship that soon unfolds into a thorny love tryst.

The conceit of  Trudy and Max is as old as romance itself. Two individuals meet, there’s a powerful chemical combustion between them and the boundaries of martial propriety are overstepped (the 2002 film Unfaithful, starring Diane Lane, comes to mind). In Trudy and Max, this scenario is further complicated by the fact that Max is Trudy’s senior by 12 years, and that Max has found success as a memoirist and novelist, while Trudy is still striving for literary success.

Though the question posed by Trudy’s dilemma is whether it’s possible (most everyone seems to agree it’s not desirable) to love two separate individuals equally, the play’s subliminal inquiry has to do with commitment and loyalty to one’s vows. The first query is explored but not actually answered, while the second problem is barely considered. Therefore, we in the audience are left to ponder the issue of trustworthiness. Indeed, we can you trust? When the pheromones fly who’s in charge our behavior, our conscience or our chemical impulses?
Directed by Lila Neugebaurer, and with a top-notch cast of actors – Aya Cash, credible as Trudy; Michael Weston, compelling as Max; Celeste Den, hilarious in various roles; and Tate Ellington, impressive in several distinct characterizations – the rectangular set design (by Laura Jellinek) is a rather monotonous display. Meant to serve as a multitude venues, we in the audience must force our suspension of disbelief in order to accommodate the awkward set as a stand-in for different places. What’s more, there’s a couch stage right where some important action takes place. Unfortunately, much of the audience’s view of the proceedings is obscured by this misguided arrangement (which slows the momentum of this two hour-plus show).
While there’s a lot to admire about Trudy and Max in Love, there’s also much to annoy theatergoers. This includes not only the moral ambiguities of the play but also some confusing choices made by the director and playwright, such as the casting of one actress to portray two characters that are easily confused for one another. It would be preferable to employ two different performers in order to provide clarity and distinction; plus it would provide employment for another cast member. Trudy and Max may be in love, but they’re also in some trouble that might be ironed out with another rewrite on Kazan’s part and some re-direction by Neugebauer.
Trudy and Max in Love continues at South Coast Repertory through January 26. Evening performances are Tuesday through Sunday at 7:45 p.m. Matinees are Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations, call (714)708-5555. 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.