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Bronte Sisters Updated in Jami Brandi's Sisters Three

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Jami Brandli has had success reconfiguring ancient stories in interesting ways; her Bliss(or Emily Post is Dead) recently garnered acclaim at the Atwater Village Theater Complex. Now Brandli’s Sisters Three presents the ill-fated Bronte family, three eccentric women suffering the aftermath of their cherished brother’s death, brought up-to-date, out of the vicarage, and into a college student housing single.

E.J. (that is…Emily Ann of Wuthering Heights fame), played by  Dana DeRuyck, has been recast as a graduate mathemetician attempting to solve the Reiman Hypothesis. Her sister, Anne (a cheeky Kara Hume), has moved in to E.J.’s small student housing, dragging a two-seat canoe along with her.

Her plan, we are soon told, is to rescue Charlotte (an operatic Robyn Cohen) from an island communal retreat. Her scheme involves tempting Charlotte with her favorite cupcakes after paddling across the lake in the rennovated canoe she has been assembling in E.J.’s cramped one-room. Through this, Anne’s conversations with E.J. reveal the sisters’ past relationships with their brother and each other. The piece culminates when a drenched Charlotte appears, having swum all the way from the commune (without the aid of the aforementioned canoe).

As it stands now, the play maintains an uncertain tragectory, teetering irresolutely between sarcasm and satire. We are never sure if we should be amused or appalled. De Ruyck has one of the most successful runs of the evening in a bi-polar fit. But the humor – or the satire – never quite gels. It feels to me as if director Annie McVey doesn’t want to tread too heavily on the material but to let it breathe on its own. Evaluated as a work in progress, Sisters Three shows promise with the question to be resolved as “to what end”?

I should mention that Inkwell Theater’s mandate showcases new and promising workshopped plays, and as such, the play has a stripped down, bare bones feel. Lex Gernon’s setting takes advantage of the tiny stage, using actual dimensions and real doorways to manifest the claustrophic, single apartment augmented by Rebecca Carr’s set dressing. Alison Dillard’s costumes pinpoint the current period, while Joey Guthman’s lighting fills in the blanks. John Zalewski, too, fleshes out the feel of the outdoors at key moments. The impressive (and out of context) sword fight between sisters was achieved by Collin Bressie’s fight choreography.

The Inkwell Theater presents Sisters Three; running at 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, 2pm, Sundays (added performances at 8pm on Thursday 12/27 and Monday 1/7 & 1/14) through January 20, 2019. VS Theatre is located at 5453 W. Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles, 90010. Tickets are $10-20. For reservations: https://inkwelltheater.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.