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All the Great Books (Abridged)

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Sometimes referred to as the “New Vaudeville,” and best known best known for their creation of such unlikely handiwork as The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and The Complete History of America (Abridged), the Reduced Shakespeare Company has also compiled other performance pieces (nine in total), which follow, in tradition and title, the practice that RSC has become known for. The latest comedy compilation to hit the boards is called All the Great Books (Abridged). And now it’s in production at the Laguna Playhouse, through March 30.

 

Directed, authored and performed by RSC veterans Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, with additional material by Matthew Croke and Michael Faulkner (the latter of whom, along with Jerry Kernion and Dominic Conti, occasionally trade off playing characters in the show), All the Great Books (Abridged) is essentially a three-man skit show, which supposedly takes us through a survey course of the world’s greatest literature.  We in the audience are stand-ins for a remedial high school class attempting to earn graduation credits in this cram course.

 

In 90 minutes (not including one longish intermission) the trio of players (Martin, Tichenor, and Conti in the performance reviewed) take us through over 85 of the world’s greatest books. Charles Dickens is reduced to a “Great Expectorations” bit, and Homer’s the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey” are joined together to make “The Idioddity.” And while these structured improvisations are fun, at times even hilarious to watch, often the players are having so much enjoyment from their inside gags that we in the audience are left trailing behind in the amusement.

Reed Martin plays Coach, clad in loud knee-high socks, and tight gym shorts (costuming by Erika Lilienthal and Frances Nelson McSherry) and complete with an obnoxious whistle, blown from a tiny, shiny noise-maker that’s certain to get our attention. Austin Tichenor assays the role of the Professor in a pink bow tie and with immaculate timing. Tichenor’s William Shatner impression is spot on and nearly worth the price of a ticket in itself. And Dominic Conti embodies the role of Dominic, maintaining a visibly low-level of comprehension of circumstance and a high level of lowbrow slapstick. When Reed and Conti don a two-person horse costume in order to portray the Trojan You-Know-What the humor becomes both sublime and ridiculous.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company has been at these zany shenanigans for over three-decades, and the absurdity hasn’t waned over the years.  What’s more, the show is regularly infused and enlivened with contemporary references, in this RSC iteration we hear of “Fifty Shades of Gray” for example.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s All the Great Books (Abridged) continues at the Laguna Playhouse through March 30. The Laguna Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. Evening performances are Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. There are also 2 p.m. performances on Thursdays, March 20 and 27. For reservations, call (949)497-2787. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.lagunaplayhouse.com.

 

Spotlight

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.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

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.