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Cost of Living

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What is the cost of living? Perhaps it would be cheaper, less of a toll anyway, to choose other options instead of bearing the steep tax that life sometimes imposes, often unexpectedly. But what might seem the easier or more convenient way out is outweighed by life’s obligations and our own inner-collage of needs. This is theme of the intersecting storylines in Martyna Majok’s 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Cost of Living — a wise, authentic and unique dramatization.

Directed with humane insight and a startling degree of earthy humor by John Vreeke, Majok’s quartet of characters are embodied with vulnerability and  brought to fragile life by a cast  that includes performers who are coping with disabilities in their offstage lives. There’s John, a wealthy, sharp-minded graduate student afflicted with cerebral palsy (Tobias Forrest brings nuance and a viscerally unnerving  credibility to his performance); also, we meet Ani (a dirty-talking quadriplegic exquisitely characterization by Katy Sullivan who originated the role in the premiere production at the Williamstown Theatre Festival and the off-Broadway staging at the Manhattan Theatre Club).

Additionally, the script includes Eddie, who becomes the caregiver to  Ani, his ex-wife (Felix Solis owns this rough-hewed, former cross-country trucker character, mining hope and hilarity out of grave misfortune); and Jess who — even with a recently received undergrad degree from Princeton University — applies and is relunctently hired by John to be his caregiver (Xochitl Romero plays Jess whose portrayal emerges from her silent facial expressions as much as from the scripted lines).

In the bifurcated scenarios, we bear witness to the immodest rigors of the life of individuals confronting quotidian chores, such as bathing, shaving and the manadates of feminine hygiene. What’s more, we learn through Majok’s crisp wit and smart dialogue that emotional entanglements are inseparable from the caregiving and care-receiving tasks.

Cost of Living was first written by Majok as a shorter play titled John, Who’s Here From Cambridge, which was preceded by a monologue Majok penned from what she describes in an interview as “a place of grief.” Although the script’s seams and crevices are evident in this staging — the jigsaw assembly of the play remains like faded scar tissue; nevertheless, the drama’s power hits hard and its poignancy lingers long after the show has ended.

The stagecraft is simple but realistic — Tom Buderwitz’s scenic design includes a shower with running water in John’s apartment and a bathtub in Ani’s abode.  The moody lighting motif designed by John A. Garofalo is perfectly suited to the emotional tones of the show, as is Nicholas Santiago’s video design; and the costuming by Shon LeBlanc is practical and easily managed throughout the changes required during the intermission-less seven-scene exposé that comprises the Cost of Living. Cost of Living is well worth the cost of a ticket.

Cost of Living continues at L.A.’s Fountain Theatre through December 16. The Fountain is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles, 90029. Show times and days vary. For reservations call (323)663-1525. For further information and for online ticketing visit http://www.FoutainTheatre.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.