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Billy Boy

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Nick Salamone is a playwright who likes to ask challenging and often uncomfortable questions about how we live our lives. In plays that range from the absurdist musical Moscow, a riff on Chekhov’s Three Sisters,  to the realistic mysteries of a family observed in The Sonneteer, Salamone is a keen and incisive chronicler of human relationships.

Salamone is also a gifted performer, and he plays the central character of Michael in the world premiere production of Billy Boy. The play is an elegiac examination of Michael’s guilt surrounding the three great loves of his life. Though that bare description only hints at the play’s complexity.

Emma (Rachel Sorsa), appears first, enthusiastically finishing a round of sex with Michael. Emma was Michael’s high school girlfriend, and they’ve not seen each other for years. Their pillow talk moves from cherished memories to spiky reminders of betrayal.

A coup de theatre (clever scenic design by Christopher Scott Murillo) introduces David (Matt Pascua), Michael’s longtime lover. The encounter with Emma is perceived as realistic, but the scene with David increasingly fractures reality and leads us to question the earlier scene. David, too, has unfinished business with Michael. And, is that really a fire in the hotel, or are Michael’s ruminations on mortality taking concrete form? A coda introduces Michael’s eminently practical Mother, also played by Sorsa.

Billy Boy is a drama of almost painful intimacy. The play’s shifting realities unfold slowly, at the pace of Michael’s thoughts. Salamone’s language is rich and multi-layered, but he eschews lyrical flights in favor of clear prose.

Taking his cue from the playwright, Jon Lawrence Rivera, who has a long creative history with Salamone, directs the play with a cool opacity that invites reflection, encouraging the audience to ask questions and reach their own conclusions.

Salamone perfectly embodies the character’s journey and never shrinks from honestly portraying Michael’s failings. In a visual analogy of the character’s emotional exposure, he spends much of the performance in his underwear. The spontaneity and verbal dexterity Sorsa brings to both roles is impressive, but it is her intelligence and clarity we appreciate in the end. Pascua’s David skilfully portrays a good-natured otherworldliness that becomes increasingly more comprehensible as his encounter with Michael plays out. Pascua spends his entire role in his briefs, but his pulchritude is less about emotional transparency than about embodying the object of Michael’s desire.

Billy Boy is a thoughtful, ambitious, and intriguing play with universal truths to share. It will force you to carefully consider Michael and his choices while you watch the play. It may even encourage you to consider your own after the lights come up.

Atwater Village Theatre    September 23 – October 15, 2017    www.playwrightsarena.org

 

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.