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Affluence

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Written by Chicago dramatist Steven Peterson, Affluence won the 2013 Julie Harris Playwriting Award. The time is set in 2010; it's the day after Christmas and the Woodley family matriarch, Namoo, is on her deathbed. But the process has become too slow and uncertain, particularly for the heir to the position of family matriarch, Jean Woodley – Namoo's domineering and ruthless daughter-in-law. Why? Because, due to a complicated tax arrangement, if Namoo (a bastardization of the word grandmother) dies before January 1st, the family will be left a fortune of twelve million dollars. If she departs after the start of the New Year, the fortune will be much less than the heirs want to accept.

That’s the set-up for this dark, dark comedy now in its world premiere at Beverly Hills’ Theatre 40. Directed by Larry Eisenberg with a focus on naturalism and with high production values (kudos to set designer Jeff G. Rack and costumer Michele Young), Eisenberg has also assembled a cast that is up to the challenge of this cruel comedy.

Lloyd Pedersen plays Robert Woodley, the son of Namoo and chief of family finances. And though he is the direct inheritor of all that Namoo will be passing on, Robert is no match against the influence of his greedy wife, Jean. Pedersen exudes the conflict inherent within himself. His passive-aggressive tendencies are understandable under the unyielding demands of his spouse. Robert is torn between the future of the family wealth and loyalty to his dying mother.

Jean, performed with daring abandon by the consummate Rhonda Lord, is not merely a money grabber; she’s also a victim of debilitating headaches. So painful is this affliction that Jean has been convicted of pilfering pain medication from a clinic as well as from her mother-in-law.

Robert and Jean are parents to two young adult children – Arthird and Beanie – sobriquets for the male and female offspring, respectively. These characters are portrayed with appropriate rivalry by Justin Huff and Ilona Kulinska, with each adding a unique combination of energy and complexity to the proceedings. Moreover, there’s Namoo’s caretaker, Inez, dimensionally characterized by Christine Uhebe. She’s torn between her obligations as a caregiver to Namoo and her future as part of the Woodley family configuration. What’s more, Inez is romantically and surreptitiously involved with Arthird

Like the jowly Godfather who infuses every fiber of the celluloid in that classic film even when he’s not on screen, the character of Namoo informs the action of this play. As performed by Nan Tepper, we not only experience the power of this stage veteran, we also sympathize with her plight and understand her pluck.

Affluence is a play with relevance to the socioeconomic circumstances of today. It’s a commentary on what some people will do for love and/or money. As years pass it may also serve as a marker of early 21st century sensibilities

Affluence continues at Theatre 40 through October 20. Theatre 40 is located in the Reuben Cordova Theatre, on the campus of Beverly Hills High School – 241 South Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. Evening performances are Thursdays through Saturdays and Mondays at 8 p.m. Matinees are Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations, call (310)364-0535. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.theatre40.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.