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How To Disappear Completely and Never Be Found

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Playwright Fen Kennedy attempts to address some of life’s biggest questions in this surrealistic romp currently playing at The Theatre at Boston Court in Pasadena. It centers on Charlie (Brad Culver) as he journeys through a series of encounters while being divested of job, family, friends, and worldly possessions. “You are what you prove to be,”  someone says during the play, and as the protagonist is relieved of all his worldy goods and relationships, his true self emerges and it is perhaps fitting that by the end of the play he is stripped to his underwear.

Smoothly directed by Nancy Keystone, this jig-saw puzzle of a play has Charlie  losing his earthly possessions except for the ashes of his dead mother that he carries around in an urn. In the surrealistic process of disappearing from society and its obligations, he is confronted by co-workers, clients, friends, seers, and various individuals who know more about his fate than he does. Questions are posed that keeps the audience wondering if he is alive or dead, dreaming or hallucinating.

During the hero’s comic transformation, the play satirically touches on aspects of our daily lives: bureaucracy, materialism, commercialization, loss of identity, relationships, mechanization, time pressures--all  familiar themes that have cropped up in plays for centuries.The mass of ideas here can be overwhelming. There is an occasional nugget as when one character says he should take the time to appreciate the little things in life, reminiscent of Emily’s beautiful monolog when she returns to earth in Our Town’s final act. Overall, though, the scattershot approach gives few answers to all the questions posed.

Scenes change quickly with a minimum set, accompanied by projections, music, and white noise. Nick Mills, Carolyn Ratteray, and Valerie Spencer adroitly play the various characters the hero encounters, while actor Time Winters dominates the supporting characters with his flow from friend to mentor to antagonist in a convincing display of diverse characters, giving each a distinctive look and sound.

But it is Culver’s likable portrayal of the confused and exasperated everyman Charlie that holds our attention as he bumbles through his psychedelic journey. His convincing portrayal of Charlie’s vulnerability and inner conflicts entertains the audience in spite of the confusion of ideas that are thrown at us. As my theater companion said, “It was well done, but what was it?!”

"How To Disappear Completely and Never Be Found" continues at the Boston Court Theatre--70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena--through May 29. Show times are Thurs-Sat at 8 p.m. $20-32.

 

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.