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Comedy of Error

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How has love and dating changed in the digital era? With information instantaneously at our fingertips and a longing for love in our hearts, sordid minds of all kinds will go to great lengths to find fulfillment. In the premiere production of Rene Scheys's Comedy of Error, now on stage at the Lyceum Theater on the campus of Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, such modern-day dilemmas are explored, the contradictions are exploited for comedic effect, and some lighthearted insights are made.

 

A sort of twenty-first century update of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors – an audacious move for a first time playwright – Comedy of Error has the requisite farcical qualities that are evidenced in The Bard’s original script; that is, mistaken identities, slapstick, word play, and puns. What’s more, under the co-direction of husband and wife team James and Christi McHale, the 90-minute comedy(with no intermission) gains momentum as the action rises and the comical conflicts unfold and dissolve into satisfying resolutions

 

The set-up is as simple as signing up for Netflix. Charles (Rene Scheys, in a serviceable portrayal) runs a fledgling dating website. As he struggles to make ends meet through this cyber love site, Charles becomes desperate when one of his clients, Bill (Brock Powell, earning his laughs), decides that he’s had enough rejection, as possible hook-up after possible hook-up shuts him down. And it’s no wonder. Bill, for comfort, has created his own mouse farm of sorts. Like Lenny in Of Mice and Men, Bill is soothed by being able to pet one of his many furry creatures during times of high anxiety and personal stress.

In order to maintain Bill’s online patronage, Charles invents an online female character who is receptive to Bill’s eccentric ways. But when Bill decides to set a face-to-face meeting with the flirtatious phantom, complications arise. Charles has used a photo of his roommate’s sister as a posting for Bill’s would-be love interest.

Meanwhile, Donald, the roommate (Matt Takahashi, who grows increasingly funny as the plot intensifies) is wary of Charles’s ethically questionable approach to doing business. When the first date is arranged with Bill, Charles enlists his own girlfriend, Chloe (Laura M. Hathaway, excelling at unspoken expressions) to stand in for the assignation. But, much to the surprise of Chloe and Charles, the man Chloe meets is anything but mousey and off-putting. In fact, that man is charming, handsome, and quite seductive (Jeffrey Kieviet fulfills the role’s requirements).

But it is when roommate Donald is drafted into posing as his own sister that the comedy hits its high mark. Takahashi goes into full-decibel mode as the intoxicated Donald dresses in a dress and twisted wig. Because of the laughter garnered by this gender-switching episode, the scenery chewing can be forgiven and even appreciated.

With sturdy support provided by Ashley Arlene Nelson, doing several utilitarian roles, and the clarifying direction of the McHale team, Comedy of Error is a fresh comedy scenario that pays homage to Shakespeare’s comedy classic. Further, the scenic design by Paul Eddington, the lighting design by David Pecoraro, the sound design by Grayson Guo and Josh Freemon, as well as the costuming by Lia Hansen, Michaela Mershon, and Katie Vos, all add flawlessly to the current day mise en scene.

Comedy of Error, a production of the American Coast Theater Company, continues at the Lyceum Theater through June 14. The Lyceum Theater is located at 55 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa. Evening performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees are Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations, call (714) 619-6424. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.AmericanCoastTheater.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.