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The Love List

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Norm Foster is a Canadian Playwright whom critics have compared, favorably or unfavorably, to America’s own Neil Simon. And if Foster’s 2003 comedy The Love List is any indication, Foster’s feel for the funny-bone is just as acute as ole Doc Simon’s. The proof lays in the laughter emitted from the audience – evoked by Foster’s cleverly-written script and the exquisitely-timed acting now on display in Theatre 40’s lush production of The Love List.

What if you could fill out, say, a ten-point list of qualities that you’d desire in a would-be mate and, viola, out of nowhere that mate appeared, readymade and fully equipped with those qualities. That’s the premise of Foster’s fanciful The Love List.

Bill is a statistician who’s just turned 50. To celebrate, Bill (an expressively rubber-faced John Combs) is taken to dinner by his friend, a middling novelist named Leon (Martin Thomas excels in this comedically dimensional role). Leon tops off the celebratory repast with a birthday gift for his best buddy. It’s enrollment in a dating service, of sorts. For a fee a so-called (and unseen) Gypsy woman has provided a list. All that the recipient of the list need do is fill-in ten blank lines on the document indicating the virtues desired in a mate.

Skeptical and reluctant, Bill plays along at Leon’s urging. Yet when the love list is properly completed, suddenly and seemingly out of the ethers, beautiful, sexy Justine appears at Bill’s apartment (Jennifer Lee Laks is marvelous in this challenging portrayal). What’s more, she seems to have come with an entire back knowledge of Bill and their life together.

With much confusion, then realization, and then calculated manipulation of the love list, Bill and Leon attempt to create, ala Dr. Frankenstein, the perfect combination of qualities that would ensure a happy-ever-after relationship for Bill and the conjured Justine. “Ambition” is a trait that Bill thinks he wants in his mate. When that doesn’t work out so well he switches that one for “sensitivity,” when that doesn’t quite fit the Bill, so to speak, it’s changed, in desperation, to “good speller,” yikes! That also proves to be an unwise choice for a virtue.

In fact, the moral of The Love List is to be careful what you wish for, because you might just get your wish.

With a tripartite cast of characters who are 100% committed to this comedy conceit and Howard Storm’s muscular direction, The Love List is a delightful staging – full of heart as well as hilarity. Further, the production values here are stratospheric. Jeff G. Rack’s set design is a stylish replica of a lived-in Manhattan apartment, while Michele Young’s costuming suits the show fabulously. Moreover, Ric Zimmerman’s lighting design and Bill Froggatt’s sound motif are in full service to the show.  Indeed, it’s time to put The Love List on your to do list.

The Love List continues at Theatre 40 through June 20. Theatre 40 is located on the campus of Beverly Hills High School – 241 South Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. For the varied show times, visit http://www.theare40.org/, where online ticketing is also available. To make reservations by phone, call (310)364-0535.

 

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.