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Stockholm Presents a Troubling Portrait of Obsessive Love

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British playwright Bryony Lavery continues a long line of playwrights since Pinter who can present specific case studies while at the same time exposing universal, social maladies. In her 2008 play, Stockholm, she gifts us with an attractive and  vivacious young couple (Kimblerly Alexander and Jamie Wollrab), who seem to have everything. They express their satisfaction with life in dressing their apartment with the very best of Ikea’s wares, even anticipating their visit to Stockholm by learning Swedish.

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1776 Stands the Test of Time-Another View

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The 1969 Tony-award winning musical about the birth of our nation is brought brilliantly to life at La Mirada Theater under the direction of Glenn Casale. While some might wonder whether the revival of the Sherman Edwards/Peter Stone show would be dated, have no fear. This production is not only lively and engaging, it rings throughout with contemporary echoes as our democracy faces perilous times.

 

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Bronte Sisters Updated in Jami Brandi's Sisters Three

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Jami Brandli has had success reconfiguring ancient stories in interesting ways; her Bliss(or Emily Post is Dead) recently garnered acclaim at the Atwater Village Theater Complex. Now Brandli’s Sisters Three presents the ill-fated Bronte family, three eccentric women suffering the aftermath of their cherished brother’s death, brought up-to-date, out of the vicarage, and into a college student housing single.

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Confederates Reveals Human Foibles at the Grove Theatre

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After many delays, I finally got to see one play from this potent double-header, now playing at the Grove Theatre in Burbank. Confederates packs a wallop, not so much for the situation, as for the self-serving propensities that come through in a play about humans jockeying for position.

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Cost of Living

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What is the cost of living? Perhaps it would be cheaper, less of a toll anyway, to choose other options instead of bearing the steep tax that life sometimes imposes, often unexpectedly. But what might seem the easier or more convenient way out is outweighed by life’s obligations and our own inner-collage of needs. This is theme of the intersecting storylines in Martyna Majok’s 2018 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Cost of Living — a wise, authentic and unique dramatization.

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1776 Gives a Stirring Re-Telling- One View

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It’s not Hamilton — its music and lyrics (by Sherman Edwards) and the book (by Peter Stone) are much more in the tradition of other standard American musicals than is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s rap-infused story of the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury. Nevertheless, 1776 was the recipient of many critical kudos when it premiered on Broadway in 1969. The show ran for 1,217 performances —earning five Tony Awards, including the coveted award for Best Musical.

 

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Culture Clash (Still) in America

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Richard Montoya, Ricardo Salinas, and Herbert Siguenza may not be the postmodern equivalent of  Moe, Larry and Curly — The Three Stoges — they are more topical, politically charged, and not nearly as silly as The Stooges. But the longevity of Culture Clash is closing in on that of The Stooges. The former have been plying their social satire since May 5 (Cinco de Mayo), 1984; the latter group performed their slapstick shenanigans from 1922 until 1970. Nevertheless, Culture Clash’s legacy will surely outdistance that of the mean-spirited, lowbrow mischievousness of The Stooges given the social consciousness that Culture Clash regularly brings to its performance mediums — be it comedy sketches, full-length plays, or screenplays and film.

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Return to the Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

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Anyone of the Baby Boom variety will recognize the opening lines of the Lone Ranger radio program in the headline. But A Christmas Story, the play having its second incarnation at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, never refers to the mysterious masked man. Instead, our 50s hero, Ralphie Parker (played by Andre Mora on the day I attended), is laser-focused on Red Ryder’s Double-action BB air rifle as his choice for Christmas. Along the way, Ralphie’s father, The Old Man (Richard Van Slyke), wins an ugly lamp in a contest and insists on displaying it, much to the chagrin of his long suffering wife (Andrea Stradling).

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A Christmas Carol

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The enduring story of A Christmas Carol began as a novella by Englishman Charles Dickens. When it was initially penned in 1843, it was titled A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. Over the centuries the tale has been told through various media, starting with print and including cinema, television, and stage. In fact, Dickens himself, starting in 1857, began performing the story publicly, and continued doing solo performances of it through 1868, making adjustments to his performance as he traveled from place to place and audience to audience. The Manchester Examiner once noted in a review of Dickens’s efforts, “There is always a freshness about what Mr. Dickens does — one reading is never...a mechanical following of the previous reading.”

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Bus Stop

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The setting for William Inge’s 1955 play, Bus Stop, is a roadside diner 25 miles outside Kansas City, Kansas. A treacherous snowstorm has blanketed the thoroughfares, preventing all highway travel — halting the bus on which four passengers are being transported westward. They find shelter and warmth in the apparently benign coffee shop/bus stop, owned by the middle-aged divorcee, Grace Hoylard, who employees a bright but naive high school girl, Elma Duckworth. The county sheriff, Will Masters, is a regular presence at the diner, and the bus driver, Carl, takes occasional layovers at this stop.

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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.