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Rest

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For such an existentially unnerving play, Samuel D. Hunter’s latest drama has a simple and rather benign title, Rest. As its premise, Rest displays a small cadre of characters – both employees and residents – who work and reside at a Northern Idaho facility for elder care. Said facility is on the cusp of a permanent close down. When a 91 year-old ward is thought to have wandered out into a severe snowstorm, the place and its people are tossed further into crisis mode.

Now in its world premiere at Costa Mesa’s South Coast Repertory, through April 27, Rest is sensitively directed by SCR co-founder Martin Benson. With a cast of seven consummate performers, Rest plays as if we are witnessing life unfold at its own desperate pace. Etta is a longtime resident of the retirement manor (a marvelously realistic Lynn Milgram). Along with Gerald, a victim of acute dementia (a most credible portrayal by Richard Doyle) and Tom (Hal Landon Jr. in a perfectly revelatory turn), Etta is the last of the fulltime occupants of the facility.

But the residents here aren’t the only ones facing a challenging transition in life. Four employees also must deal not only the closure of the facility but also with how to handle the missing resident. Jeremy is the high-strung manager of the venue; he’s living on the edge of his own panic and anxiety (Rob Nagle provides comic relief as well as a rounded and humane characterization). Also there’s Faye (a contoured interpretation by Sue Cremin) and Ginny (Libby West in a most naturalistic assaying of character). As a subplot, we have this twist: Faye is pregnant and acting as the surrogate mother for Ginny’s unborn baby, carrying the fetus to term on Ginny behalf. Additionally, there’s a young new cook, Ken, who’s just been hired by the facility. The problem is that Ken is also subject to panic attacks (Wyatt Fenner lets loose in his most volatile scenes).

The scenic design by John Iacovelli is a replica of every dreaded and dreary convalescent facility there is. What’s more, the harsh weather is also replicated to the point of verisimilitude. Further, the costuming by Angela Balogh Calin is representative of the quotidian attire one might expect to see in such an environment. Additionally, the lighting by Donna Ruzika and the original music and soundscape by Michael Roth also underscore the bland, despairing ambiance of the facility.

Though full of surprises and surprisingly entertaining, Rest also gives us a bird’s eye view of a most pressing social issue: the rapidly growing elderly population and how they (we) are to be cared for as that future arrives on a daily basis.

Rest continues at South Coast Repertory, through April 27. SCR is located at 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Performances on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are at 8 p.m. Matinees are at 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The show last one hour and fifty-five minutes (with one intermission; there is no evening performance on Sunday, April 27evening). For reservations, call (714)708-5555. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.scr.org.

 

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.