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Heisenberg

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Sitting midway up in the traditional theater configuration at the Mark Taper Forum, looking down at a long platform surrounded on both sides by half-circles of audience members, gives one the immediate impression that you are a second rate citizen. The lower audience is at eye level with the actors who face each other at opposite ends of the platform. They can see facial expressions and likely hear every word of dialogue. It is a strange disconnect to have a bird's eye view of the action without feeling a part of it.

Heisenberg is a familiar construct. Two disparate people with no logical reason for their finding common ground engage in a certain kind of romance that defies logic but depends on the hope you will like them enough to buy the premise. In this case, Mary Louise Parker and Dennis Arendt are engaging enough to keep you interested, but he is much more appealing as a character than Parker, who is playing her usual quirky, off-center sprite that becomes harder to achieve as maturity sets in.

 

Georgie Burns (Parker) has an impulse, we are told, to kiss Alex Priest (Arendt) on the back of the neck in a London train station. He is seventy-something and an unlikely target for a forty-year-old woman. We learn he is a butcher, has never married, and carries on conversations in his solitary existence with a sister who died early in life. Whether Georgie is intrigued with him in her guise as a free spirit or has an ulterior motive for this attraction is the crux of the question posed by author Simon Stephens. The answer comes after a mutually satisfactory sexual hook-up, but then what follows stretches the imagination more than a bit.To reveal many more details would damage the slender storyline.

With only tables and chairs as scenery moved by the actors themselves, there's not much to look at. Director Mark Brokaw moves the actors back and forth so they are facing opposite ends of the platform periodically, but that does not help those sitting above to do more than hear what they are saying. Parker's diction often precludes hearing every line fully, and that can also be detrimental to a play in which a volley of exchanges make up the plot. There is one very human post-coital moment that humanizes Priest and gives him the likability edge.

It strains credulity to imagine that this aging loner would suddenly find a woman who is annoyingly capricious, outrageously direct, and borderline mental someone he would want to let into his life. Maybe that's Stephens' plan for the story. Eighty minutes without an intermission is just not long enough to convince.

 

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.