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The Devil's Wife

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Why do folk tales resonate so deeply for us? There is something in their familiarity and their strangeness that speaks to a primordial impulse in all of us, a shadow psyche that is drawn to the darker and messier side of human behavior.

With The Devil’s Wife, playwright Tom Jacobson has created an homage to folk tales, as well as a gentle send-up. Though Jacobson’s characters are conventional storybook types, he peppers his dialog with sly witticisms and post-modern commentary.

The play opens in an atmospheric rain storm. The Ramirez sisters, Bonita (Mariel Neto), Dulce (Alana Dietze) and Sofia (Caro Zeller) have just returned from burying their father. Taking stock of their situation, the sisters realize that their hold on the family house and land is financially precarious and that an advantageous marriage may be their best option for financial security.

Though Sofia is the youngest sister, she is also the cleverest, and she has invited a lawyer to advise the family. In short order, Nicolas Mastema (Everette Wallin) appears and he is everything the family could desire. Dark, handsome and oozing sex, he has a proposition that he believes will save the sisters and protect their home. All he needs to set the plan in motion is to marry one of them. As the eldest, and the most beautiful, Bonita agrees.

Mastema tells Bonita that she is free to do anything in her new home but go down into the basement. If you’ve read any folk or fairy tales, you know where this is going. Bonita is unable to resist exploring the basement and, in disobeying her husband, she seals her doom.

Practicality winning out over delicacy, Mastema returns to the Ramirez manse looking for a new bride. Dulce is quite willing and travels with him to her new home. After weeks of non-stop and impressively athletic sex, Dulce finds she is also unable to withstand the temptation offered by the forbidden basement.

This sets the scene for the final confrontation in which Sofia will face Mastema and force him to reveal what lies beyond the door as well as his true identity as the Devil.

Jacobson has convincingly crafted a newly-minted folk tale that feels utterly familiar. Few writers would dare to throw in a Miltonian debate on God’s responsibilities during a physical showdown.

Director Eric Hoff makes sure that the action never lags during the play’s 80-minute running time. He also mines every laugh, but, perhaps, at the expense of the story’s creepier moments. I think that, like a good Hammer film, the humor could enhance the horror rather than overwhelming it. Cudos to Fight Choreographer Mike Mahaffey for a brilliantly wince-inducing battle between Mastema and Sofia.

Both Neto and Dietze place the flaws of their deliberately stereotypical characters front and center to create two very funny performances. Zeller is fiery and powerful as the woman who will finally put the Devil in his place. It’s a truism that the Devil always has the best lines, but an actor still needs skills to master the role. Wallin, with his supple voice, agile physicality, and intelligence commands the stage in every moment.

The Devil’s Wife will play in rep with The Lost Child.

Skylight Theatre     July 15 – August 27, 2017     SkylightTix.com

 

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.