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The Price

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The Price, written by that pillar of American drama, Arthur Miller, made its Broadway debut in 1968, where it ran for 429 performances and garnered two Tony-Award nominations--one for Best Play and the other for Best Scenic Design.

This rarely produced script puts focus on family dynamics, as grown brothers sort out the property of their recently deceased father. Not only do the two estranged siblings, one a New York City cop, the other a  successful surgeon, attempt to put a price on items such as furniture; they also find themselves assessing the value of certain life decisions.

Now So Cal theatergoers have the opportunity to see these proceedings played out by a consummate cast that includes masterful performances by multigenerational actors – Kate Burton (daughter of Richard) and Sam Robards (son of Jason) – at Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum, through March 22.

Directed at a crawl’s pace by Garry Hynes, this Miller play explores themes that have been excavated in other Miller conceits: broken families from the era of the Great Depression haunted by the ethically questionable dealings of a patriarch. Previous Miller dramas that set such family stakes at center stage are All My Sons and the quintessential tragedy of the common man, Death of a Salesman.

Here the father is represented by an empty chair, placed downstage, center, but facing upstage. It sits empty for the duration of the show. It seems to haunt the circumstances, as if the spirit of the father is overseeing the dealings underway. Add to this an octogenarian appraiser, Gregory Solomon (Alan Mandell finding and squeezing every bit of humor from this challenging performance), called upon by Victor Franz (Sam Robards, in a uniquely conflicted portrayal) to assess the value and determine a price for all the items from his father’s estate. Again we have a generational divide between Victor and an elder that’s going to determine the value of the contents of his life.

While Victor is based on a true-life acquaintance of Miller’s – Irving Abrams who had the highest IQ on the New York Police Department at the time of his service – the character in the play feels cheated by his life situation. After all, it was his older brother, Walter (John Bedford Lloyd in an enthralling portrayal), who had the support of their father to attend medical school and enter the American professional class.

Meanwhile, Victor took a position as a civil servant in the NYPD to look after and care for his aging dad. Still everyone, including Victor’s longtime wife, Esther (Kate Burton in a naturally rendered characterization), belittle Victor for not making the most of his ample potential. Ironically, we learn that even their father held more respect for the well-achieving Walter than for the dedicated Victor. Can a price be put on devotion? How is success to be measured? It’s no coincidence that the appraiser’s name is Solomon. He’s the one who determines the value of the estate while the brother’s haggle at the price that each has paid during their lifetimes for their life choices.

The Price, at two and-a-half hours in length, continues at the Mark Taper Forum through March 22. The Mark Taper is located at 135 North Grand Avenue, Los Angeles. Evening performances are Tuesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., and on Sundays at 6:30 p.m. Matinees are at 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays and on Sundays at 1 p.m. For reservations, call (213) 628-2772. For online ticketing, visit www.CenterTheatreGroup.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.