Delightful Reprise of Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite”
At The Theatre with Audrey Linden
The Morgan-Wixson’s production of “Plaza Suite” shows audiences Neil Simon’s humor sustains and his 1968 play is still a crowd pleaser. The set-ups, punch lines and zingers are hysterically funny. Michael Rothhaar directed his four ensemble actors to heighten the comedy. He maintained the fast pacing that Simon’s writing demands. It was an evening of pure nostalgia and laughter.
The Tony Award winning play from 1968 had a run on Broadway with George C. Scott and Maureen Stapleton in the lead roles. And, in the 1971 film, who can forget Walter Matthau and again Maureen Stapelton, Barbara Harris, and Lee Grant? In this production, Howard Lockie adroitly played the lead male roles of Sam, Jessie, and Roy. Andrea Stradling played the female lead roles of Karen, Muriel and Norma. Both did an admirable job. It is no easy task to play three totally different parts. Both actors had costume,wig, and attitude changes. Alicia Craff played Miss Mc Cormick in Act One and Mimsy in Act Three. Karol Garrison played three roles as bellhop, Borden, and the waiter and managed to do different accents.
The Plaza Hotel, Suiite 719 is revisted by Karen and Sam Nash on what Karen is sure is the eve of her wedding anniversary. Only, as Sam points out, not only is it not the right suite, as they were in suite 819, their anniversary is the following day. “If it’s old and beautiful, it won’t be there in the morning.” One can’t help wonder if Karen is talking about the Plaza or herself. Karen hoped to rekindle the flames, but Sam is busy with corporate business and monkey business with his secretary, Miss Mc Cormick, well-acted by Alicia Craff. Sam is the self-absorbed, ego maniacal husband obsessed with his newly capped white teeth, and maintaining his weight. “Why don’t you go inside and lose some weight?” Forget that Sam is going through a mid-life crisis. He is a pompous asshole played to perfection by Lockie. Lockie’s acting was so good that I hated Sam. Karen, who forgets her age and errs on older, rather than younger which Sam would prefer, has seduction in mind. Her hopes are dashed. But, she came to life and delivered some great one liners which she flung like daggers at Sam. Karen thought her husband would be more creative in his choice of mistress. “Miss. Mc Cormick, come inside and take an affair.” “Everyone cheats with their secretary.” “I expected more from you.” The back-and-forth sparring was hysterical and their timing was impeccable.
In Act Two, we meet successful movie producer, Jessie Kiplinger with sideburns and a Nehru jacket, as he awaits his former high school girlfriend, Muriel Tate, in order to have his way with her. Muriel has a husband, Larry and three children now, but that does not deter Jessie. Stradling’s Muriel, in a platinum wig, was delightfully funny as she downed vodka stingers saying “No” but meaning “yes.” Though Stradling looked different as Muriel, the tone and timber of her voice was not. Her transformation was not complete for me. None-the-less, she was very funny. Her three o clock hair dresser’s appointment quickly became a five o clock, and dinner with Larry went from six to seven after the stingers went to her brain. Muriel kept referring to Jessie as “Mr. famous Hollywood producer, who lives in Humphrey Bogart’s house in Beverly Hills.” She was in ecstasy as Jessie rattled off names of the rich and famous in Hollywood. The name dropping became delicious foreplay. She is the last uncorrupt woman and Jessie is determined to corrupt her. She never took her black gloves off. That was a nice touch which also was in the film.
Act Three was very different as Norma is trying to talk her daughter, the bride, Mimsy into unlocking the bathroom door so she can get married. There was a lot of good physical comedy along with the sharp and witty dialog and punctuating one-liners. “Mimsy, come out of that bathroom and get married.” “I’ll have it annulled next week.” All Roy can think of is how much this wedding is costing him. “The $200 cocktail franks are getting cold.” “You and your $400 wedding dress get out of there.” Karen and Roy bicker as each blames the other. They speculate Mimsy is afraid of what she will become. “She will become us.” I liked Act Three the best. I thought both actors nailed their characters and the physical comedy was so very well-done. Both Lockie and Stradling were sublimely funny in Act Three.
Kudos to William Wilday’s fabulous and realistic set of suite 719. He gave us three rooms. There was the entry way into the main room with a loveseat and table, fireplace, the dressing room and the posh bedroom. All three rooms had draped windows which looked onto the buildings next door and had the New York fire escapes. There was some fancy footwork as Roy walked outside and balanced on the ledge as he tried to get into the locked bathroom. George Spelvin's realistic traffic soundswith honking horns created the perfect city sounds when the windows were opened. If the walls had ears, and it seemed as if the walls of Suite 719 did have ears and we too, as the audience were flies on the walls and privvy to the action in suite 719.
Plaza Suite runs through February 10th at the Morgan-Wixson Theatre at 2627 Pico Bl. Santa Monica, Ca 90405. For tickets and show times call 310-828-7519 or on line to www.morgan-wixson.org Tickets are $20 and students and seniors are $18.
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,”etc.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills, Community Services. To register, call 310-285-6850. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. The next class starts January 10th For more information, contact Audrey at email@example.com
The class in for 8 weeks @ $118 from 6:45-9:15 PM ($5 materials fee payable to instructor first night).