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It’s impossible to write about Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Abigail/1702 without mentioning Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Though this is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it must be frustrating to have your play linked with and compared to such a well-known work when the style and intent are so different. On the other hand, it’s hard to deny that a close kinship with an enduring mid-century classic will, presumably, excite both theater producers and audience members.


Miller famously used the witch trials as a metaphor for McCarthysim and wrote on a broad canvas to show the effects of hysteria on an entire community.  Aguirre-Sacasa’s focus is on an intimate story of guilt and the possibility of redemption. Abigail Williams was one of the Salem girls who accused neighbors of witchcraft and sent 20 to their deaths. Can a decade of good works and privation expiate her sins?


Abigail (Jennifer Cannon) has been living for years under an assumed name outside of Boston. She cares for the sick and is particularly renowned for her work with pox victims. This is a particularly interesting choice of lifestyle as the Puritans held unmarried women practicing healing under deep suspicion. She is visited by a Young Man (Ross Hellwig) whom she reluctantly takes in and cures. Once restored to health, the Young Man begins to ask questions about the attractive woman leading her solitary life and the Little Boy (Jace Febo) who visits her. But it soon becomes clear that the Young Man has his own secret.

The play’s varied locations are easily established by caryn desai’s [sic] clear direction and Christopher Scott Murillo’s evocative set. desai also skillfully guides her talented cast to effective performances. Cannon’s anguished Abigail provides a solid foundation for the unfolding drama, and she easily commands the stage. Hellwig’s Young Man brings a welcome warmth to Abigail’s lonely existence and provides a very real temptation with his shirtless display of pulchritude.

Febo is well-spoken and affecting as the Little Boy. Both Kevin Bailey and Michelle Holmes play multiple roles with practiced ease. Bailey is most engaging as the forceful and sonorous Devil. Holmes makes all her appearances count, but she has the advantage of playing the confrontation scene we all want to see. That moment is when Elizabeth Proctor comes face-to-face with Abigail, the woman whose “testimony” executed her husband and nearly took her life as well. Holmes and Cannon play this with a terse intensity that brings you to the edge of your seat.

International City Theatre   May 1 – May 24, 2015




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.