Friday, May 5, 2017

Review of Neil Simon's “Plaza Suite” performed at Schoolhouse Arts Center

Ever check into a hotel and wonder who stayed there last night? Last month? Last year? Was it a single person? Married couple? Family? And just what occurred in that very same space you’re now occupying? 
Playwright Neil Simon provides some answers in his classic comedy “Plaza Suite”, now playing at Schoolhouse Arts in Standish. With Simon’s unique trademark style of situation humor, “Plaza Suite” offers an inside look at three parties who at one time or another stayed at NYC’s Plaza Hotel for very different reasons. It’s a snapshot in time of quirky characters with idiosyncratic personalities on zany, fragmented journeys that all intersect in Suite 719. 

Act One: Sam and Karen Nash are celebrating their “23rd or 24th” anniversary “today or tomorrow.” Despite Karen’s desire to rekindle the romance by revisiting their honeymoon suite, Sam’s desire is focused on work, work and work. Just when tensions are boiling, Jean McCormack, Sam’s young, skinny and attractive secretary, drops by with more work that compels Sam back to the office. Karen’s joking reference to an affair between Sam and Jean turns out to be true. 

Terri Plummer’s version of Karen and Chris Roberts’ version of Sam are wonderful to watch as they navigate all the emotional landmines through incessant roller-coaster rides of nice-talk and heated arguments. The strengths and weaknesses of their characters are manipulated perfectly by Plummer and Roberts, never letting up on the push-and-pull, up-and-down, yin-yang, internal conflicts. Crickett Cote’s brief portrayal of Jean McCormack is subtly well-played. 

Act Two: Hollywood Producer (and legendary ladies’ man) Jesse Kiplinger is in town and hopes to hook up with his old high school flame Muriel Tate after 17 years. Muriel, now married with children, is guilt-ridden but reluctantly accepts Jesse’s invitation to visit and promises she will not stay long. After a drink or two - or 10, Jesse reveals his inner feelings about his work, fame, past relationships and his love for Muriel, who admits to her unhappy marriage and by now has poured out her heart and soul on her way to passing out in bed. 

Gerald Davis, though perhaps a tad young for the role, is ultimately convincing as Jesse Kiplinger. He is strong as the self-absorbed purveyor of fame and fortune, knows how to display the precise amount of inner anger, and gently reveals his character’s vulnerability. Mia Perron is both fun and funny as Muriel Tate, aptly handling a wide range of emotion as she successfully transforms Muriel from a shy, demure, proper young lady into a wilder and willing partner. Together, the facial expressions and comedic timing are entertaining. 

Act Three: Sixty-eight guests and a bridegroom are anxiously waiting downstairs for Roy and Norma Hubley to escort Mimsey, their daughter and bride-to-be. Only problem is - Mimsey has locked herself in the bathroom. Hilarity ensues as the frantic parents, desperate and under pressure with each passing moment, try everything under the sun to get their daughter out. But out of blame, excuses and time, Mom and Dad, bruised and defeated, torn and tattered, have no choice but to tell the groom, Borden.

Review by Louis Philippe, Reindeer Entertainment Group

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