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God of Carnage

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In 2009, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, James Gandolfini, and Marcia Gay Harden received acclamations for their respective performances in French playwright Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage. Each actor garnered a Tony Award nomination, but only Harden took home the gold. Now, two years subsequent to that Broadway event, Reza’s script—translated seamlessly and perfectly Americanized by the meticulous Christopher Hampton—has found a West Coast home at Los Angeles’ Ahmanson Theatre—through May 29. Excitingly, the original Broadway cast has come along for the show.

The set-up is only mildly unsettling: Alan (Daniels) and Annette’s (Davis) prepubescent son, Benjamin, has hit his classmate, Henry—son of Michael (Gandolfini) and Veronica (Harden)—in the face with a stick, breaking two of the victim’s teeth. Veronica has convened a conference with the other couple. The action begins in the upscale Brooklyn neighborhood of Cobble Hill, at the home of Michael and Veronica (a stunning red and purple-haze set design by Mark Thompson, who also did costuming). The foursome of mothers and fathers are civilly discussing the assault that they all willingly stipulate occurred.

Alan, a corporate attorney, is in the midst of defending a transnational pharmaceutical conglomeration against an impending lawsuit. This keeps him tied to his cell phone to the point of distraction. Veronica is an author and activist, and she is currently writing a book about the Darfur tragedy. Michael is a wholesale dealer in household items. He’s presently burdened by the fact that he unceremoniously dumped his young daughter’s hamster from the cage to the front curb in the wee hours. Veronica won’t allow Michael to live down this dastardly deed anytime soon. Meanwhile, mild-mannered Annette defines her career as “wealth management.”

When tempers flare and turmoil is revealed barely beneath the surface interactions, we see that Annette and the others are more in need of anger management than anything else. Amidst fisticuffs and episodes of spewing vomit (a startling display), and ever shifting loyalties, Reza’s paper-thin plotline plays like a most primitive drama. The focus is strictly on conflict, and this makes for some sophisticated comedy and reality-based slapstick.

Director Matthew Warchus, who also helmed the New York production, propels this 90-minute, intermission-free piece as if it were a speedy go-cart in a demolition derby. But it is the quartet of daredevil performers driving this dangerous dramatic obstacle course who ultimately earn our upmost admiration. Daniels, Davis, Gandolfini, and Harden are the pillars upon which this modern-day dramedy stands. When it’s over we may ask, “What just happened?” But, for an hour and-a-half, we’ve been glued to our seats apprehensive of the outcome. And it’s that theatrical journey that makes God of Carnage worthwhile.

God of Carnage continues at the Ahmanson Theatre—135 North Grand Avenue, Los Angeles—through May 29. Show times are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. Matinees are Saturdays at 2 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. There’s also Sunday evening performances at 6:30 p.m. (There’s an added Matinee at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 12, and no 6:30 performance on Sunday, May 15.) For reservations, dial (213) 972 – 4400. For further information and 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.