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The Gin Game Still Explosive at Sierra Madre Playhouse

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I said once before that no other theatre takes so much care and attention to the lobby elements that augment knowledge about a show in question.This time, it’s the game of Gin that gets all the attention, and the installation is worth a trip in itself!

How long has it been since any of us last played the game? In my case, I think I was in grade school. But for others, it’s an obsession. And to playwright D. L. Coburn’s credit, he hangs his deeply affecting tale about ageism onto this marathon treatment of the game in a retirement home back in the late 70s.

Husband and wife team, Katherine James and Alan Blumenfeld play Fonsia Dorsey and Weller Martin, respectively.  Both have wound up in the Bentley Home for the Aged, which is a low-income retirement facility, and they soon become friends over Weller’s obsession with the game of Gin Rummy.

Although Fonsia is a reluctant player, she is really more skilled than Weller, which leads to a classic case of gender discrimination, as she shows him up time after time. With the playing of each game, Weller become more and more agitated at Fonsia’s luck, until (sure enough, it’s time for the end of Act One), he declares that he will never speak to her again.

Never fear. Act Two brings them back together, for return matches. The more Fonsia tries to extract herself from competition, the more Weller is insist. Playwright Coburn’s treatment of the two reveals complex gender politics, lovely new connections in the lives of two lonely people, and the underlying motivations that drive each person’s actions. James and Blumenfeld are cohesive as the two elderly players, and under Christian Lebano’s well paced dynamic, their relationship builds slowly until the play’s explosive ending.

Sierra Madre’s increasingly professional approach to theatre renders another masterful production technically as well as artistically. I was particularly struck by the beamed ceiling designed and executed by Tesshi Nakagawa. Normally, a ceiling would obstruct the lighting design in a standard proscenium stage, but Derek Jones handles the challenge beautifully. Costuming by Liz Nankin recall the halcyon days of the 70s, with only the sound cues a little shaky on opening night.

The Gin Game continues Fridays and Saturdays at 2:30 PM and 8:00 PM; through October 6th at Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre 91024. Tickets, $20.00. Phone (626) 355-4318.  For online ticketing:



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.