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Of Good Stock

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Celebrity novelist, Mick Stockton, has died quite some time ago; he has left his three adult daughters the patriarchal abode in Cape Cod, purview over his still much-in-demand bibliography, and many familial loose ends to be sorted out among the daughters.

The men in the lives of this trio of feminine descendants struggle to comprehend the Stockton family's complex legacy, and to blend into it. The protagonist, Jess (Melanie Lora in a most naturalistic characterization), hasn’t even dropped her maiden name. At one point her devoted husband, Fred (Rob Nagle in a winning portrayal), sarcastically inquires as to whether he ought to take Jess’s surname as his own.

The three-sister paradigm has existed in drama since Shakespeare’s King Lear had his tragic encounters with the tripartite distaff of his loins. And it’s been more than a century since Chekov used a similarly inspired template in his play, The Three Sisters. Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart follows the three-sister motif into the 1970s; and, in 1993, Wendy Wasserstein’s comedy, The Sisters Rosenweig, takes the sister trilogy into the 1990s.

Swiftly directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch, Melissa Ross’s Of Good Stock follows a rough outline laid out by her predecessors. But the sister-women in this world premiere staging at Costa Mesa’s South Coast Repertory takes the idea into current times. The play is infused with topical tumult suited to our era of the 21st century: life in the after burn of fame, heightened suspicions, and deadly disease.

It’s almost time for Jess to turn 41 years-old. In celebration of this birthday – a particularly important marker in Jess’s life, which will become apparent as the plot unfolds – the three siblings gather at the Cape Cod house in honor of this event, as well as the upcoming nuptials of middle sister Amy (Kat Foster in an emotional rollercoaster of a performance). Though Jess and husband Fred are already there when the story starts, soon Celia (Andrea Syglowski, handling the foul-mouthed requirements of this character with good cheer) arrives at the Massachusetts locale and is readily criticized by the decade-older Jess for her misuse and vulgarization of the English language. Celia has no compunction about dropping the F-bomb as an interjection, nor is her use of the term "dude," confined to the male gender, a practice that drives Jess to complain and correct.

When Amy arrives with her fiancé, Josh (Corey Brill in a charismatically quirky interpretation of the role), it’s evident that this middle-born sister is absorbed by three entities: her, herself and she. When Josh suddenly realizes that life with Amy will be exemplified by the behaviors that are exhibited at this gathering, he’s drawn into an existential crisis.

And though tardy in his arrival, Celia’s boyfriend of a couple of months, Hunter (Todd Lowe, finding much humor amid the pathos surrounding his character), at last arrives. Subsequently, a bombshell revelation is made. Complications ensue, and unexpectedly we in the audience find an emotional resonance in the circumstances that are as powerful as they are surprising. The issues brought forth by this three-sister tale are simultaneously unique and universal.

After all, we all are facing the inevitability of demise, not only of ourselves but of our loved ones; we all must make the most of the family we have and the relationships we create; and we each must deal with our particular set of circumstances as best as we are able.This would happen ideally with the support of loved ones, whether they fully understand our plight or not.

Of Good Stock is well supported by the unsurpassed quality of stagecraft that we've come to expect from SCR. Of particular note is Tony Fanning's scenic design, which ingeniously recreates both the interior and exterior of a Cape Cod residence.

Of Good Stock continues on SCR’s Segerstrom Stage through April 26. SCR is located at 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa. Evening performances are Sundays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. On Thursdays, Fridays,and Saturdays the show starts at 8 p.m. Matinees are Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. 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.