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Broken Glass

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Tennessee Williams’ latter day plays—though unappreciated during his lifetime—are now having a revival of sorts around the country. New York is offering productions of The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (from 1963), as well as The Wooster Group’s far-out interpretation of Vieux Carre (1977), while here in Southern California, A Noise Within Theatre Company is gearing up for what promises  to be a top-notch staging of Williams’ sub-popular, The Eccentricities of a Nightingale (1964).

But Williams isn’t the only iconic American dramatist to be ill-considered in the twilight of his career. The late, great Arthur Miller, known for such culturally impactful scripts as Death of a Salesman (1949) and The Crucible (1953) is also seeing a renaissance of his autumnal work here in So Cal in the form of a 1994 play he titled simply and horrifically, Broken Glass, produced by the West Coast Jewish Theatre at the Pico Playhouse in Los Angeles.

Set in 1938, Brooklyn, New York, one Phillip Gellburg (Michael Bofshever in a pitch-perfect performance) is paying a visit to a physician, Dr. Harry Hyman (Stephen Burleigh, extraordinary). It seems that Gellburg’s wife, Sylvia (a complex and compelling Susan Angelo), is the victim of a sudden, unexpected, and inexplicable paralysis—which has confined her to a rotation between bed-rest and a wheelchair. Sylvia’s recent dehabilitation happens to coincide with the events that newspapers are calling Kristallnact—the infamous “Night of Broken Glass,” wherein the Nazi’s unleashed government-sponsored vandalism and terror against German Jews. Is Sylvia suffering a psychosomatic reaction? Is hers a physical dis-eased response that is primal and deeply-rooted—the stuff of nightmares? Yes on both counts.

Miller’s daring and intelligent narrative provides an examination of personal and cultural identity. In Phillip Gellburg we see a man who longs to be seen as a unique individual, not as part of a Jewish monolith. Though not a psychiatrist, the assimilated Dr. Hyman—an American Jew who attended medical school in Germany due to a stateside quota system that limited Jewish enrollments— strives to make it clear that all people have some burden or injustice to bear, not just Jews. Phillip, however, insists that what Jews suffer is qualitatively different from other people’s tribulations. Strangely, Sylvia’s affliction happens to intersect with her deteriorating marriage to Phillip, as well as the fascist outrages that are spreading like a plague across Europe.

With stellar performances across the board(s)—including Peggy Dunne as Margaret, Rene Geerlings as Harriet, and Lindsey Ginter as Stanton Chase—Elina de Santos’ potent direction propels Miller’s conceit forward in a most dramatic fashion. Additionally, Erin Brewster’s split-scene set design is evocative of the period and place. Also, Melanie Watnick’s costumes are a retro-blast to our World War Two past. What’s more, Leigh Allen’s lighting lends a slightly aged, historic quality to the proceedings. Although “Broken Glass” might not be described as a good time in the theater, per se—a challenging plot, crisp characterizations, and high production values make this 2 ½ hour show well worthwhile.

Broken Glass continues at the Pico Playhouse—10580 Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles—through April 17. Show times are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. Matinees are Sundays at 2 p.m. For reservations, dial (323) 821-2449. For online ticketing, visit



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.