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No Homo

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No Homo was originally seen at the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival, where it won a number of awards, including “Best World Premiere.” It later traveled to the New York Fringe where it was, likewise, celebrated. It has returned to Los Angeles for a full production.

Luke (Michael James Lutheran) and Ash (Jonny Rodgers) are longtime roommates whose lives are so intertwined that, though they profess to be straight, most people assume that they are a couple. The confusion is understandable as their relationship includes everything long-term couples share but the sex. The crucial lack of this element is what will finally force the pair to examine their beliefs and desires about themselves and each other.

We are introduced to Luke and Ash, out with friends and relatives, on a barely sober spree at the Abbey. Luke is entertaining his visiting sister, Chrissy (Lauren Flans) and his new girlfriend, Babette (Elizabeth Ellson). Ash has brought along his brother, Serge (AJ Jones) and Serge’s boyfriend, Kris (Henry McMillan) to celebrate their moving in together. As the attention-seeking Chrissy gets drunker and louder, Luke retreats further into himself. When she announces that she’s a lesbian, Luke explodes and tears into the entire group with a fury that clearly shows the fissures beneath his nice-guy exterior. It also indicates that there is more on playwright Brandon Baruch’s mind than a frothy, skin-deep survey of West Hollywood watering holes. (A brunch at Basix is also included.)

Baruch’s dialog crackles with lively wit and an economical, but sure sense of character delineation. He packs a lot into the play’s intermissionless 95 minutes. The fluidity of sexual identity, monogamy, internalized homophobia, fear of rejection, and just how much we can hurt the ones we love are all touched on with honesty and abundant humor. Jessica Hanna directs her talented ensemble with a sure hand and a care for the abrupt changes of mood in the play. David Offner’s efficient set design gives us just enough to place the surprisingly varied changes of scene.

Rodgers is a charmingly sympathetic Ash, and Lutheran’s brave performance pulls no punches with Luke’s conflicted psyche. Jones’ surly Serge hides a closet romantic, and, with what could easily be just another stereotype, McMillan finds layers in Kris. In a show that is decidedly about the men, these ladies manage to make a real impression. Chrissy’s thoughtless prickliness may not endear herself to people, but Flans makes her human, while Ellson’s Babette shows surprising backbone after realizing she’s been taken in once again.

According to friends who saw the Fringe production, the end of the play has been revised. And, while I have no problem with the climactic choice, there is a slight feeling of something unfinished in that final moment. But that should certainly not deter anyone from catching this entertaining and thought-provoking new play.

Atwater Village Theatre   August 1 – 23, 2015   www.nohomo.brownpapertickets.com

 

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.