Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
The Stage Door Theatre presents the Neil Simon comedy Plaza Suite. After two previews, the original Broadway production of Plaza Suite opened at the Plymouth Theatre on February 14, 1968. It ran for 1097 performances, and received the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play (Mike Nichols) . The play was later adapted for film in 1971, and again for a television movie in 1987.
Plaza Suite is composed of three separate scenes, each with different characters, which all take place in Suite 719 of the Plaza Hotel in New York City. The first scene, entitled "Visitor From Mamaroneck," is the story of Karen Nash, who has booked the same honeymoon suite she shared with her husband Sam for the evening of their 24th wedding anniversary. Though she hopefully plans to rekindle some of the romance missing in their marriage, after a visit from Sam's young secretary, she discovers that there may be more than just work keeping him late at the office. The second scene, "Visitor from Hollywood," features a rendezvous between now famous movie producer Jesse Kiplinger and his high-school sweetheart Muriel Tate. Muriel is a happily married woman aware of Jesse's reputation of living life in the fast lane. Though she convinces herself the meeting is nothing more than a visit with an old friend at the Plaza, she is seduced by his glamorous lifestyle and smooth talk. It is only a question of how far will Muriel allow the seduction to go. The third scene, "Visitor from Forest Hills," revolves around Roy and Norma Hubley on the day of their daughter Mimsey's wedding. A case of cold feet has led Muriel to lock herself in the bedroom of suite 719. With hundreds of guests and a cast of caterers and photographers waiting downstairs, Roy and Norma beg and threaten in every way they know how to try and get Muriel to come out.
The set for this production at the Stage Door Theatre is ideal. It has the simple understated elegance of a hotel of the time period, without looking dated or stuffy. The amount of space allotted to actual acting is perfectly used, as one is not made aware of the set or of the blocking by the staging. It all comes off with a natural look and feel.
Derelle Bunn captures the essence of Karen Nash despite the occasional line that sounds a bit stiff. She has a sweet vulnerability mixed with the quiet, long-suffering nature of the character. She manages to play her scene so that her character's choices genuinely seem made at that moment in time. Kevin Reilley as husband Sam has good chemistry with her as an actor, but is missing some of the spousal warmth Bunn sends his way. Though his Sam doesn't come off as a jerk, it also doesn't feel like he loves his wife despite the circumstances at hand. This is important, as loving his wife provides the source of his conflict.
Actor Bill Dobbins adeptly portrays the shallow and smarmy playboy Jesse Kiplinger in the second scene. As his romantic prey Muriel, Courtney Cameron Reed doesn't quite settle into her role believably, missing some well written comedic acting opportunities. She needs to channel her tension as a actress into her character's tension.
In the final scene of the show, Margie Elias Eisenberg and Michael Douglass work as a well-oiled acting machine as longtime husband and wife Norma and Roy Hubley. There is an admirable effortlessness throughout their bits and banter. They wisely spend their time together continually engaged in the moment and reacting to one another. They handle the more physical comedy so as to avoid the outrageous that would turn it into farce. Simon's writing in Plaza Suite is some of his best, and is certainly at its best in this production when handled by Eisenberg and Douglass.
Playwright Neil Simon received Tony Awards for Biloxi Blues and Lost in Yonkers, and has received a total of fifteen Tony Award nominations for his work in shows such as Little Me, The Odd Couple, Sweet Charity, Plaza Suite, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, The Sunshine Boys, They're Playing Our Song and Broadway Bound. Simon writes with an honesty and humanity that is timeless, and justifiably remains one of America's most successful and prolific playwrights. His plays are all to some extent a reflection of his own life, often paying homage to his beloved New York City.
Plaza Suite will be appearing at The Stage Door Theatre through March 20, 2011. The theater is located at 8036 W. Sample Rd in Coral Springs, Florida. The Stage Door Theatre is a not-for-profit professional theatre company hiring local and non-local nonunion actors and actresses. Their two stages in Coral Springs are open year round. For tickets and information on their season, you may contact them by phone at 954-344-7765 or online at www.stagedoortheatre.com.
*Designates a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Inc., an independent national labor union.