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Five Mile Lake

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Early in Rachel Bonds' latest play, Five Mile Lake (now in its debut at Costa Mesa's South Coast Repertory, through May 4), two characters trade dialogue that sounds similar to this: "People change," says one. The other replies with something such as, "No they don't; their character is just revealed over time." In sitting through this 90-minute (with no intermission) staging of Five Mile Lake, we see characters not so much revealed as shown to be what you might have suspected from the start. In fact, one of the most surprising things about Lake is how unsurprising it is. One can see the hackneyed character turns coming from a mile down the allegorical pathway. This makes for a longish hour and-a-half, to be sure.

Ploddingly directed by Daniella Topol, Lake tediously explores five characters as they deceive themselves, deny their circumstances, and end up as narcissistic and unchanged as when the story opens.

Jaime (played with a dimwitted innocuousness by Nate Mooney) is the brother left behind to care for the family bakery and to restore his grandfather’s aging lake house in a rural Pennsylvania outpost called Five Mile Lake. He lives and conducts commerce here, such as it is, in ignorant bliss. While his co-worker, Mary (Rebecca Mozo, exuding a serene beauty that defies her characters dilemma), regrets not having made the most of her athletic abilities as a long-distance runner and as an international arts aspirant.

When Jamie’s older brother, Rufus (a naturalistic but annoying portrayal by Corey Brill), unexpectedly appears at the lakeside establishment, we learn that this desperate doctoral candidate and his supposedly brilliant lady pal, Peta (played with a charmless lack of appeal by Nicole Shalhoub), are a Petri dish of neurosis and obnoxiousness. To add insult to this insipid scenario, Mary’s brother, Danny (Brian Slaten in a brief but intense appearance), drops by the bakery to borrow pizza-purchasing money from Mary before beginning his job of last resort, and, while he’s at it, also gives us a quick flash of the PTSD he suffers as a result of his time spent soldiering in Afghanistan.

Though the theme of Five Mile Lake is Chekhovian, its slow-motion display of characters’ concerns and consternations – i.e. small-town existence versus big city opportunity; relational serenity as opposed to postmodern metrosexuality — unlike Chekov’s delicate conceits, Lake drowns in its own banality.

This is the script’s problem and a directorial concern as well. While the issues of small town satisfaction juxtaposed against urban opportunity are worthy topics for dramatic exploration, there’s but conjured conflict and manufactured emotions on view here.

The handsome stagecraft and lofty production values are impressive (scenic design by Marion Williams; costumes by David Kay Mickelsen; lighting design by Lap Chi Chu; original compositions and sound design by Vincent Olivieri), it’s unfortunate that such effort was expended on such an under par dramatic enactment.

Five Mile Lake continues at South Coast Repertory through May 4. SCR is located at 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Evening performances are Tuesdays through Sundays at 7:45 p.m. Matinees are Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations, call (714)708-5555. For online ticketing and further information, visit South Coast Repertory.



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.