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King Lear

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When the elderly-close to-senility King Lear said "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child,"  he spoke what he knew to be true. His seemingly loving older daughters, Goneril and Reagan, are two vultures with sharp-ready talons aimed to take over the kingdom. Lear prefers their admissions of love over his daughter  Cordelia. The story remains the same; it’s only the locale that’s different. Surprisingly it fits.

Director Marianne Savell takes the nearly 400-year-old classic tale of betrayal and suspense out of England and places it in the Wild Wild West in California during the 1850s. Gone is the rich garb and a setting that denotes wealth and power.  In its place are gunslingers and ordinary people searching for gold or self-gain. It’s hard to tell who’s on the right side. 
Cowboys, cowgirls, and sharp shooters head into a saloon, re-telling tall-tales. Set in an OK Corral sort of place, you might expect the infamous Wyatt Earp to walk in with an equally tough Annie Oakley. 

Lear (Bruce Ladd) collects his daughters like Barbie dolls and makes them profess their love for him. Goneril and Regan (Heather Chesley and Tara Batttani, respectively) swallow hard and admit their love for their daddy. Then, he gives them and their husbands a piece of his land. However, when it’s Cordelia’s turn, she tells the truth. She loves him exactly as much as a daughter should love her father. This enrages the king, and he banishes Cordelia (Tawny Mertes) and her suitor (Montelle Harvey). This provides the two sisters a way to scheme into inheriting their father’s kingdom a lot sooner.  

In another dysfunctional home, mayhem and treachery ensue. This time around it’s Edgar (Joseph Barone) and Edmund (Nathan Bell), whose full name should be Edmund-the-unwanted-bastard, and their father, the King of Gloucester (Steve Gustafson) who always reminds Edmund of his status in the family. Everyone gives an excellent and heartfelt performance. Ladd’s version of Lear is one of those performances that should be studied in acting classes.

Bell oozes charm and uses his seductive good looks against Regan and Goneril, making both sisters go against each other. Their feud makes it easier for him to work his hypnotic magic. 
Leticia Moore is a huge breath of fresh air playing The Fool. Moore is the textbook example of “the wise fool,” who bluntly says the truth but doesn’t get reprimanded for it. She makes her comments, takes a big bite of her green apple, smiles, and walks away, leaving her targets mentally bruised and scratching their heads while trying to comprehend her remarks. 

Not to be outdone, Poor Tom of Bedlam (played magnificently by Barone) is another wise fool in disguise. Like The Fool, he also speaks the truth in an insane manner, with a crazed look in his eye. 

Gustafson is wonderful as Gloucester. He plays the old-time maverick who controls his children like Lear. He doesn’t lose his alpha-maleness even when his eyes are gouged out. He feels his way around and ends up spending time with Edgar and Poor Tom to great effect.

Harvey also played a cowboy and the King of France superbly.  He walks with a confident swagger in his cowboy outfit while giving strangers the evil eye. Mertes also does double duty playing Cordelia and a hard-ass cowboy.

Lear’s descent into madness is, at first, enjoyable to watch because he clearly deserves it. However, at the end, sadness can be felt watching the unraveling of a once prominent man.
All of us have disagreements with family members, but these siblings go way beyond what’s necessary to fix them. The human spirit, or lack thereof, transfers no matter where the story is set. Lessons can be learned from this production.

"King Lear” runs until Sunday, April 3, Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 at the Crossley Theatre located at 1760 N. Gower Street in Hollywood, on the campus of Hollywood Presbyterian Church. For tickets and information visit or call (323) 462-8460 extension 300.



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.