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A Dram of Drummhicit

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Just try to pronounce the title of La Jolla Playhouse’s world premiere, A Dram of Drummhicit. On second thought, do not worry about that articulation because bartender Mackenzie Stewart, one of the characters in this wacky play, will teach you. He pours the quick shot of that local scotch whenever an unsuspecting newcomer sidles up to the bar. Served with a back of the local water, which is crunchy enough to plug up a bottleneck, the whiskey elicits a hacking response that comes close to its name.

That silliness is just one of this play’s signatures. The others unfold like a topsy-turvy dream, where myth meets modern and conscious thought mixes with folktales. Like those nighttime explorations of the subconscious, just when you think you know what Arthur Kopit and Anton Dudley’s comedy (originally developed by the Lark Play Development Center) is trying to tell you, it tacks like a tilting sailboat and tosses about itself.

What it may be about is the foiled effort of a narcissistic businessman, who, used to having his way with people and money, decides to establish a golf course on the wee Scottish island of Muckle Skerry. Robert (“the”) Bruce, as the locals call him, could be the answer to an economy the folks think they want. Yet, when they learn that his plans include a second course on the hill where the faeries live, they are not so sure.

And, when Bruce’s front man, Charles Pearse, learns about the bog people, he’s not so sure, either. Those long-dead mud bodies keep popping up in the peat and could certainly pose a distraction at tee time or on the back nine. (Interestingly, a current exhibit at the Museum of Man showcases one of those naturally preserved people). But those beings fascinate Felicity Oliphant, a British museum liaison, who has a keen interest, anthropologically speaking, and is determined to either unearth the truth of the bodies’ origins or take a trip down the center of the earth to join them.

Felicity’s duality of purpose or motive is only one of the play’s tilts and tosses. For what the play could also be about is the importance of the mythical to a place and its humans. That storyline hangs on Fiona MacLeod, a lively redhead whot turns Pearse’s noggin, and her fisherman da, Angus MacLeod, who have some strong connections to the fairy folk on the hill. Add in a few clergy, both resident and visiting, and an elder who was supposed to be the town-developer go-between, all of whom muff their duties in ridiculous ways.

And then there is the weather, which erupts into strong, very localized, lightning storms that target unwelcome explorers of the fairy turf and send them scurrying down the mountain.

Meanwhile, Fiona and Charles have discovered each other, and their coupling offers the most entertaining scene in the play. But decisions must be made, and all cannot end well until the nasty tycoon gets his comeuppance and the person he truly wronged, a former mentor, confesses his own alliance. It’s Shakespeare meets the Coen brothers, with a zigzagging plot, misunderstood alliances, reappearances of long-lost relatives, and a rather corny and contrived ending befitting a comedy.

The actors all seem to be having a great time playing both fools and tricks. Lucas Hall does Charles Pearse with a lively earnestness that keeps the character charming rather than stupid; Polly Lee’s Fiona is simply sweet and utterly guileless; Kelly AuCoin brings a merry energy to the bartender Mackenzie; Kathryn Meisle gives strong-willed  personality to Felicity, the museum lady; and Alan Mandell manages to keep the old reprobate William Ross more a witty oddball than a slapstick senior.

David Zinn’s appealing revolving set morphs from church to pub to cabin without fuss, although putting a bog on the hill is problematic. And Christopher Ashley’s direction keeps a loose but lively rein on the entire proceeding. So, with or without a clear plot or purpose, this play’s a romp. Just don’t drink the dram or the water.

A Dram of Drummhicit plays on the Mandell Weiss Theatre stage at the La Jolla Playhouse through June 12.
Performances are at 7:30 pm Tues-Wed; 8 pm Thurs-Sat; and 7 pm Sun. Matinees on Sat-Sun at 2 pm.
Reservations at (858) 550-1010 or


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.