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deLEARious

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deLEARious was originally produced by the Open Fist nearly a decade ago, when it garnered numerous awards and nominations. The company’s revival of the show features an energetic cast of nearly 20 in a crazy quilt burlesque of Shakespeare’s King Lear, modeled on the antic spirit of Monty Python and Mel Brooks at his best. But the show, despite its intentions, never manages the inspired lunacy of those masters.

As the show opens, Elizabeth I is dead, and there’s a new monarch in town, which the cast gleefully relates in the opening number. The new king is James I (Chase Studinski), and Shakespeare (Scott Mosenson) is wondering what the future holds for his company of actors and his career. Luckily, James is, not only a fan of the theatre, but he’s anxious to help Shakespeare revise his new play, King Lear.

While this background to the writing of a classic might seem sufficient for a show, Writer/Director/Performer Ron West has complicated his book with a subplot concerning claims that Shakespeare had a hand in writing the King James Bible, musicalized scenes from Lear, and a contemporary story in which a writer, played by West, auditions actors for his musical. Following this precept of more is more; even Godzilla makes a brief appearance.

deLEARious is fitfully amusing, and the score, by Phil Swan, is pleasant in the way of musicals where the songs take a back seat to the laughs. The cast is talented and throw themselves into their multiple roles with admirable abandon. West’s direction is crisp, and Ellen Monocroussos’ simple, but extraordinarily effective lighting design goes a long way in making the swift changes in time and location clear.

Standouts in the large cast are Studinski’s preening James I, Ramon Garcia’s strong-voiced Kent, Mosenson’s anxious Shakespeare, and Jason Paige’s slimy Edmund. In the tradition of Shakespeare, the women have less to do, but Robyn Roth, Rachel Addington, and especially Gina Manziello as Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia respectively, make the most of their Lear moments. They also belt out their cliché audition numbers as if they are showstoppers. Musical Director Jan Roper keeps the tempos brisk and reveals a nicely dry delivery for her lines in the audition room.

A focus on one or two of the stories might have upped the ante on the show’s humor quotient, but, as it is, deLEARious buckles under the weight of its complications and its two hour-plus running time.

Atwater Village Theatre    November 10 – December 16, 2017    www.openfist.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.