Venue Details

99 Star Starred
Ruskin Group Theatre
3000 Airport Ave. Santa Monica, CA 90405
310-397-3244
Venue website Get directions

Reviews & Ratings

53 ratings
4.3 average rating
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137 events
20 reviews
18 stars
attended Feb 25 2006

Terrific acting. Great show!

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Quotes & Highlights

“…an angry and penetrating exploration of friendship ruined by resentment and jealousy.”_ -Variety_
“Beneath the surface of Reiss’s free and easy dialouge runs adeeper current of emotion,so subtly and realistically conveyed that we theatergoers feel like voyeurs stashed among the shelves of books and recordings.” _-L.A. Times, Recommended_
“…intense comedy drama crackles with snappy dialogue, rich emotional undercurrents and vivid characters.” --LA Weekly, Recommended

Description

It’s not unusual for actors to become playwrights – Sam Shepard, Noel Coward, even Chekhov started their theatre careers on stage. But a playwright who turns to acting – and who practically makes his debut on Broadway – is, indeed, a rare phenomenon.

“I made my acting debut and farewell on Broadway, as everyone should,” says recent Los Angeles transplant Jay Reiss, only half joking.

Reiss — whose play “That May Well Be True” will have a run at Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica — found himself on the Great White Way through a series of serendipitous events, the stuff of which show biz legends are made.

It started as a lark. At the urging of his fiancée, actress Rebecca Feldman, Reiss agreed to help create and act in a quirky, improv-heavy show called “C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E” about a Spelling Bee competition. The play ran three weeks at Theatorium in downtown New York in 2004. And that was supposed to have been that.

But playwright Wendy Wasserstein came to the show, loved it and hooked the company up with playwright-composer Bill Finn of “Falsettos” fame. Finn saw a videotape of the show and decided he wanted to write songs for it.

Then it was off to Barrington Stage in the Berkshires where Reiss and several other co-creators worked with Finn to develop the new musical that was to become “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” The show did well at Barrington , reviews were good, and famed Broadway director James Lapine came on board to helm a production off-Broadway before the hit show moved to Circle in the Square last April.

“It goes to show that anything is possible,” a still somewhat bemused Reiss says.

Riess ended up staying in the Broadway production for six months in the role of Douglas Panch, the vice principal he created for the original play who asks the bee contestants the tricky words to spell. He also performed at the Tony Awards last spring and bantered with – and gave a spelling test to – Katie Couric on “The Today Show.”

It was the kind of success that thousands of wannabe actors throughout the nation would give an arm and a leg for. But Reiss had no desire to be an actor, had no on-stage experience as a child or young adult, and did not even major in theatre as an undergraduate at the State University of New York at Binghamton (he studied cinema).

However, he has been a productive writer, graduating from The Juilliard School’s playwriting program and authoring several plays including “The Tulip Craze” (Manhattan Theatre Club), “Meanwhile, on the Other Side of Mount Vesuvius” (Adobe Theatre in New York), and “The Romantics.” “That May Well Be True” was commissioned by Manhattan Theatre Club.

Though Reiss could have stayed on in “Spelling Bee,” his heart – and main interest – lay with writing. And so he bid an emotional farewell to fellow cast members last October and moved to L.A. to write screenplays, having already sold one script to Warner Bros.

“Acting was good fun, but it was never the most fulfilling thing,” he says. “There was no means to an end, though it was a good learning experience.”