• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Can You Be More Pacific?

E-mail Print

"The Big Orange," "The OC," and "Behind the Orange Curtain" are all references to one of California's, and the nation's, geographical sweet-spots. First and foremost, let's be frank, it's the weather that makes Orange County an earthly nirvana for-all-seasons. Lots of sunshine and moderate year-round temperatures have served as population magnets. What was once thought of as a rural and slow-paced sub-entity of state government--as well as a bastion for right-wing extremism, ala the John Birch Society--has been transformed into a hustling and diverse metropolis in its own right, rich in resources and thoroughly multicultural. Years ago, uber-Republican Congressman Robert Dornan was unseated by Loretta Sanchez--a Democrat and a Latina--in a district in the center of the county.

Now the famed improvisational acting troupe, The Second City has made a study of this faire So Cal locale, and is presenting its findings onstage at the Laguna Playhouse, through April 11. The show is called Can You Be More Pacific? and it is a laugh-out-loud experience for those who live in or have an affinity for Orange County. In an overture of song and dance (outstanding musical direction by Michael Berson), a feisty cast of six start the show with a catchy ditty titled "The Last Orange Tree in the OC," which ends with a chuckle-inducing solo from the last such tree, lamenting its fate--sad in sentiment, funny in performance.

Of course the proceedings are full of the tried and true improve techniques for which the group is famous. For instance, five of the players line up front and center to the audience, while the sixth performer takes suggestions from theatergoers on some OC-based premise. On the night of this review, patrons shouted out "Fullerton cops," "traffic," "gated communities," "Democrats," and "Republicans." Subsequently, each of the five actors are specifically assigned to comment on a particular topic, as the sixth member "conducts" what could be called a concert of Orange County complaints. As the conductor points to one actor after another he or she sounds off the suggested issue. Soon a comedic rhythm and resonance begins to flow forth like merry music.

Some of the most amusing moments of Second City's first foray into the OC are when the performers turn their focus onto the very audience members who are viewing them. In the concert of complaints bit, for instance, the actor taking on the "gated communities" part (Craig Cackowski excelling at hilarity in a multitude of roles), intimates that a $10 security guard isn't that dedicated to protecting the homes of people able to patronize the theater. The audience laughed generously, however uneasily.

Created by the ensemble members--who also include Frank Caeti, Molly Erdman, Brian Gallivan, Niki Lindgren, and Claudia Michelle Wallace--along with Director Marc Warzecha and writer Andy Cobb, Can You Be More Pacific? was put together on a whirlwind trip-and-tour that the Chicago-based company recently made to Orange County. Like all sketch comedy, Pacific? is broad and relies heavily on stereotypes and generalities, however passe or presently inaccurate they may be. At times the show has the feeling of a stranger coming into a home to make pot-shot remarks about the owner's lifestyle, and some OC-ers might be slightly resentful of the send-ups. Nevertheless, Can You Be More Pacific? makes for fine, if somewhat in-your-face, entertainment. For those of us from behind the Orange Curtain, remember what Socrates taught: The unexamined life isn't worth living. That is at least until it finds itself the subject of reality TV or parodied by The Second City. Then each of our lives is liable to be scrutinized, if not fairly examined, in the eye of a television camera or under the glare of a spotlight on stage.

"Can You Be More Pacific?" continues at the Laguna Playhouse--606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach--through April 11. Show times are Tuesday - Saturday at 8 p.m. Matinees are at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, with a Sunday evening performance at 7 p.m. on Sunday, April 11. For reservations, dial (949) 497 - 9229. For further information, visit



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.