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The program states that Nicky, by Boni B. Alvarez, is inspired by Anton Chekhov’s Ivanov. It’s actually a more faithful updating/adaptation of the play than most of the recent spate of Chekhov-inspired dramas.

Nicky (Cyrus Wilcox) catches sun by his Palm Springs swimming pool, as his terminally ill wife, Anna (Sandy Velasco), warbles 70’s pop hits in the bedroom. Nicky is a Silicon Valley genius who has lost his creative spark. He’s borrowed money from his oldest friend, Pavel (Daniel Kaemon), and has no plans to pay back the loan, something Pavel’s thrifty wife, Zina (Emily Swallow), senses.

Further complications come from Pavel’s 21- year old son Sasha, (Chris Aguila) who is in love with the deeply closeted Nicky and the close-knit group of Russian family and friends who happily overrun every part of Nicky’s life. But, as with so many Chekhovian characters, Nicky’s default is inertia.

Alvarez nicely captures the melancholy longing that colors so many Chekhov characters. The modern setting allows him to sprinkle topical humor throughout, and he has an eye for the ridiculous--iike a samovar gracing the patio of a Palm Springs villa on a blazing summer day. Less successful are the serious moments. The monologues, in particular, feel imperfectly grafted on to the whole, and they are too on-the-nose to be credited.

Nicky’s battle with his sexuality seems like it should offer a freshly modern take on the character, but, somehow, it strains credulity. Nicky’s closeted status seems incongruous for a man who lives in the Bay Area, vacations in Palm Springs, and has family and friends who warmly accept the openly gay Sasha. Besides, they all appear far too self-absorbed to really care about someone’s sexuality.

Beth Lopes directs the large ensemble with an eye to highlighting the wealth of character tics and traits. This works best in the first act, where the lighter tone allows her to do admirable work creating an intricate tapestry of competing egos. In the more dramatic second act, Lopes urges her actors on, with the result that several of the confrontations feel melodramatic and emotionally overwrought.

Wilcox manages to make us feel compassion for Nicky, despite the fact that his emotional paralysis forces him to be unbelievably cruel to those who care for him. Velasco is touching as the unwanted wife facing her mortality alone, and Aguila is aptly fierce in his pursuit of Nicky. Swallow’s commanding Zina is just the sort of hostess you want to avoid, while Kaemon’s oblivious overgrown frat boy is surprisingly endearing.

The supporting cast is full of vivid performances like Ted Barton’s warmhearted impecunious Count, Nardeep Khurmi’s indignant doctor, and Julia Silverman’s eminently practical matchmaker. It is particularly fun to see perennial choir boy, Jeremy Lelliott, throw himself into Misha—a drunken, foul-mouthed lout who never shuts up.

Scenic designer Benoit Guerin’s sweeping, sunbleached patios work beautifully with Azra King-Abadi’s shimmering, cloudless lighting to conjure a man-made oasis in the parched desert.

Greenway Court Theatre    June 3 – 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.