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Let's Talk About Sex

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It’s time to have a serious talk about Sex. Isn’t it punny to do word play around this title? I’m not sure that’s what Mae West had in mind when she wrote it. Though hard to believe, Mae West was a burlesque entertainer barely on anyone’s radar when she wrote, financed, and starred herself in this play on Broadway guaranteed to cause a “buzz.”  With an unerring nose for publicity, West’s play tackled hypocrisy in 1926 New York and society swarmed to it, despite efforts by the NYPD to shut it down.

In Sex, Mae West played Margy (here performed by a cool Andrea Hutchman), a prostitute struggling to extricate herself from Rocky (Davey Johnson), her pimp, against all odds imposed by straight-laced society of the day. When Clara, a rich dowager (Susan Edwards Martin), hooks up with Rocky in search of an evening of thrills, the exposés start and chips begin to fall.

West scripted in a series of oppositions, deliciously contrasting Clara’s son, Jimmy (Ryan Phillips), as one of Margy’s admirers, with another customer, Lt. Gregg (Wayne Wilderson), Margy’s most loyal customer. She alternates those contrasting personalities with Agnes (Lowam Eyasu), another performer who just wants to settle down.

Hutchman delivers her characterization of Margy with West’s celebrated nonchalance without becoming a caricature, and Johnson, as Rocky, strikes notes reminiscent of Edward G. Robinson. Another pivotal character, Dawson (Perry Brown), plays it straight while representing the most lenient of lawmen.

Director Sirena Irwin uses unconventional casting for most of the other characters, thus creating another oppositional dynamic. She strikes a perfect tone evoking an almost 40s-era gangster tradition that brings authenticity to West’s otherwise stereotypical portrayal of a harlot with a heart of gold (but in this case she’s got an ambitious yen for legitimacy). It doesn't matter that the production values are sparse, because the entire ambiance contributes to the effect.

For instance, the utilitarian set (by Mike Flannery) stands in for everything from a Montreal brothel to an exotic Trinidad cabana and back to a New York Townhouse, with simple lighting (Derrick McDaniel) and sound (Dave Marling) to accommodate. But if costumes make the (wo)man, those chosen by costumer Michael Mullen expertly bring us into the era.

Be advised: For a nostalgic trip to a far-off time and an iconic dame like Mae West, you really need to have Sex!

Sex continues Friday and Saturday at 8:00 P.M. and Sunday at 7:00 P.M. through June 17th, 2018 at the Hudson Theatre main stage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90038.  All tickets are $30.00.  Find online ticketing at https://dime.io/events/buzzworks-sex, or at the Hudson Theatre Box Office.

 

 

 

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.