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The Lyons

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For close to 30 years, playwright Nicky Silver has been eviscerating families with his scathing wit. He’s moved away from the more absurdist elements in his early shows, but he remains a writer with a unique voice and a keen understanding of the resentments that simmer just below the surface of even the best-behaved people. Not that Silver has any interest in good behavior.

His 2011 play, The Lyons is having its local premiere in a strongly cast production at the Road Theatre. Ben (James Handy) is terminally ill, and he’s more than happy to rage against the dying of the light. He’s also ready for a few final rounds with his wife, Rita (Judith Scarpone), who is sitting by his hospital bed. Rita is ostensibly there to offer comfort, but appears more interested in plans to do over the living room once he’s gone.

It appears the only thing this couple agrees on is not burdening their two children with the news of their father’s imminent demise prematurely. But the day has come, and the children have been sent for. Lisa (Verity Branco) arrives first. She is definitely “Daddy’s Little Girl” and is both shocked and incensed that her parents felt they needed to protect her from her father’s condition. Lisa is divorced and a recovering alcoholic. She’ll find no greater test of her sobriety than this family reunion.

Next to arrive is Curtis (Chad Coe). Initially Curtis appears to be sane one in the group, but Silver takes his time unveiling the man’s dangerous secrets. Curtis is gay, and James makes no secret of the fact that it disgusts him. If this sounds like the set-up for a teary deathbed reconciliation, you don’t know Nicky Silver.

After the harsh laughs of the first act, the script takes an unexpected detour, introducing a new character, a different setting, and a markedly altered tone. The gamble doesn’t entirely pay off, but Silver’s attempt to move beyond his comfort zone is appreciated.

Director Scott Alan Smith guides his terrific cast with a sure hand. Particularly impressive is the opening sequence, where every jab and barb of the tricky dialog is clearly delineated, even though both Ben and Rita are immobile – Ben in his hospital bed, and Rita in her visitor’s chair. Sarah B. Brown’s clever and efficient scenic design neatly encompasses the action and the venue shift.

Scarpone’s Rita perfectly embodies a certain Manhattan narcissistic nightmare of a mother, obliviously dispensing cruelty while barely modulating her voice. Handy’s hilarious temper tantrums are completely understandable when you see that even his incipient death can’t capture his wife’s undivided attention. Branco’s fragile Lisa only needs a few hours with her family to destroy her tenuous hold on self-recovery. With Curtis, Coe etches a portrait of a man who seems to have survived his family relatively unscathed. That is, until you are drawn into his pain-filled eyes.

The Lyons may not be Silver’s best play, nor would you care to spend time with any of these characters in real life. But a couple of hours in their company, safely protected by the Fourth Wall, is both diverting and unsettling.

The Road on Lankershim    May 12 – July 1, 2017



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.