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The Fringe: McCready and Adam and Eve

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At one point in in Jon Bernstein and Jennifer Blake’s new musical McCready, has-been country star Mindy McCready admits that her life is a train wreck. It is a rare moment of clarity for this sad, self-destructive woman.

I admit to not knowing who Mindy McCready was prior to the show. So I can’t speak to the veracity of McCready’s depiction of her life, though Bernstein and Blake have, no doubt, rearranged some biographical details for dramatic effect. And, while the show is billed as a musical, all of the songs are diegetic, never straying from a performance context.

Neither can I speak to how much Blake, who plays Mindy, resembles the performer visually, or vocally. What I can say is that Blake, the writer, has chosen an excellent vehicle for Blake, the actor. Onstage she is always compelling, never shying away from the darker side of her character. But it is Blake’s volcanic vocal performance that truly makes the show. When she sinks her teeth into a song, you know that you will truly feel it, as her voice is a primal conductor for every type of emotion.

But McCready is not a one-woman show. Blake and director Robert Glen Decker have cast the hunkiest male ensemble in town to play the men in Mindy McCready’s life. Robert Hardin makes a powerful impression in two roles-- as longtime affair Roger Clemens and singer Billy McKnight, who was arrested for trying to murder her. Zack Crosby is convincingly domineering as Mindy’s first celebrity boyfriend, Dean Cain, while Craig Umhoefer and Michael Ursu ably balance a number of smaller roles with their instrumental duties. All of the men sing back-up and solo sections throughout.

Decker wisely chooses an environmental staging in the Dragonfly space, which gives the play’s multiple locations a welcome visual variety. And Ursu, who is also the Music Director, does a great job of giving the songs an authentic feel.

In this first outing, McCready has much to recommend it. But the current playing time of just over an hour feels rushed. Careful expansion of the piece could offer more sides of Mindy’s character and would also help to show that her life was something more than a parade of failed relationships.

http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/3509

 

Adam and Eve is playwright Blake Lewis’ exploration of the Judeo-Christian creation story. It is quite telling that the playwright starts the show, not with God, but with a pair of stagehands and a clown. The stagehands will carry out God’s commands—basically do his work for him. The Clown (Bradley Wayne James) will question our beliefs, highlight the story’s ambiguities, and return as the Snake to offer knowledge to mankind.

After creating the heavens and the earth, God (Bruce Katzman) decides to assuage his loneliness by creating a man. Adam (Kyle Jones) is the result. Adam is happy, laid back, and, quite naturally, naked. But a few days of quiet contemplation in Paradise embolden him to ask God for a companion. God responds by creating Eve (Katie Booth); sharp, quizzical and just as naked as Adam.

After their initial shock in discovering each other, it seems that Adam and Eve are perfect for each other. There are the usual Genesis-style warnings about not eating certain and fruit and honoring God, but this is where the play begins to subtly diverge from the familiar story.

Lewis is no anarchistic rebel, tossing grenades at deeply held beliefs. Nor does he turn the play into a broad SNL-style satire of easy targets. His method is to quietly question. To throw a spotlight on the contradictions. To cast doubt. He uses gentle, but insistent, humor to temper his thoughts. Because Lewis’ God is stentorian, sexist and obdurat, He is also a liar.

Lewis also directs the show and gets strong performances from the entire cast. Adam and Eve is not a perfect script yet. The Clown and the Stagehands aren’t well integrated into the show after the opening, and there are moments which could be condensed. But the play is thought-provoking and a perfect Fringe property.

http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/3624

 

 

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.