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A House Not Meant to Stand

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Though in 1980 the legendary American dramatist Tennessee Williams had already conjured the conceit and primary narrative, the full script for A House Not Meant to Stand didn’t get produced until 1982, when it was staged by Chicago’s storied Goodman Theatre. But, in truth, the plot and characters had already been explored by Williams in the form of a one-act play called Some Problems for the Moose Lodge. Between 1980 and 1982 that show—Williams referred to it as a “southern gothic”—underwent several revisions and more than half-a-dozen title changes, ranging from The Dancie Money to The Terrible Details.

Finally, Williams decided to label this serio-comedy as A House Not Meant to Stand: A Gothic Comedy. He suggested that it was an “Architectural metaphor….The house in the play is in a terrible state of disrepair….That house…is a metaphor for society in our times.”

While scholars of Williams consider House to be one of the great playwright’s more problematic plays, it nonetheless remains a mystery of modern day theater as to why it took three decades for House to reach the west coast. But, at last, it has come to Los Angles’ Fountain Theatre, and under Simon Levy’s textured direction, A House Not Meant to Stand is one sturdy production with a top-shelf set of actors.

Cornelius McCorkle is the not quite bigger-than-life patriarch of the McCorkle clan (portrayed with heaping helpings of curmudgeonly comedy—and, yes, corn—by Alan Blumenfeld). But Cornelius is not a big daddy cut from the cloth of Williams’ iconic Big Daddy in his more famous and appreciated Cat on a Hot Tin Roof..This family chieftain is more concerned with locating the bounty from bootlegged liquor that his mentally afflicted wife, Bella (Sandy Martin in a stand-out performance), has received from her shady-sided family: It’s the so-called Darcie money.

Interestingly, Williams begins his story (much inspired by his own familial lineage) with Cornelius and Bella returning to their dilapidated Mississippi home after the funeral of their oldest son, Chips. Eventually we are introduced to the pair’s other grown son, Charlie (played as if his name were “Earl” by Daniel Billet). We also learn that the couple has a daughter who has long-distanced herself from the McCorkle dysfunction.

What’s more, we meet an array of other strange and saucy southern types, including Charlie’s most recent gal-pal, Stacey (Virginia Newcomb, in a credibly high-pitched portrayal), and Emerson and Jessie Sykes (Robert Craighead and Lisa Richards, respectively, both richly detailed in their outlandish characterizations).

Jeff McLaughlin’s dark, dank set design is a major co-star in A House Not Meant to Stand. After all, it is that house from which the show’s moniker is drawn. Other strong supports in this “House” are Ken Booth’s lighting and Peter Bayne’s sound design. Both technologies are used to convince us of rainstorms, wind-gusts, lightening flashes, and thunder bolts just outside the hideous house.

We can stipulate that House is not as poetic, nor as profound as the canon of classics Williams offered-up in his earlier years. How does one exceed The Glass Menagerie or A Streetcar Named Desire? But A House Not Meant to Stand is a play intended to appeal to the funny-bone of audiences and to the intellect of theatergoers. (Cornelius, for example, has political aspirations though his own home is falling down around him—ironically corrupt, eh?) With Williams’ deft and daring story-scripting abilities, both intentions are aptly fulfilled.

"A House Not Meant to Stand" continues at the Fountain Theatre—5060 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles—through May 22. Show times are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Sundays. For reservations, dial (323) 663–1525. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.FountainTheatre.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.