Last night, Bwog attended the penultimate performance of the CUplayer’s performance of Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite. Read on to see what you missed if you didn’t make it.
The high ceilings and picture windows of the Wien Lounge perfectly recreated the elegant atmosphere of Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite. Although Melanie Silver’s stage design could not have been more appropriate, the choice of Simon’s play in three acts seemed less appropriate for an undergraduate theater production.
In Act One: A Visitor from Mamaroneck, Jason Resnikoff and Masha Kamenetska play Sam and Karen Nash, a conventionally unhappy middle age couple, who have come to suite 719 for their 24th wedding anniversary. Attempting to extract some tenderness out of her husband’s severe retorts, Kamenetska’s bubbly performance is painfully contrasted against Resnikoff’s sedate resignation. Resnikoff’s furrowed brow and gravelly pitch suit Sam’s perpetually dour mien, but his performance is best when he laces his cruelty with humor. Similarly Kamenetska plays an excellent peppy house-wife, but she adds depth to Karen’s seemingly shallow anxieties when she hisses, “What can I do, Sam? I’m attached to you!” The fine acting showcased here successfully draws out the conflict buried within Simon’s script: What does one do with life or love when it becomes boring?
Simon returns to the same question in Act Two: Visitor from Hollywood. Back in suite 719, circa 1968, two estranged high school sweet-hearts, Muriel (Morgan Childs) and Jesse (Yoni Grossman-Boder) reunite. Grossman-Boder plays the preposterously smarmy Hollywood producer and Childs counters him as the clichéd saccharine housewife. Taking his part as Jesse seriously, Grossman-Boder intones his laughably predictable pick-up lines with an almost absurd sincerity. Although she occasionally slips into an unexpected southern accent, Childs delights the audience with her star-struck blunders. But it is unclear whether the humor is intended since the scene unfolds with uninspired dialogue and all too expected action. The end leaves the audience unsatisfied and certain that the scene’s failure is not the acting.
In Act Three: Visitor from Forest Hills, Director Christina Macchiarola made many smart choices with costume and staging, but her actors would have benefited from a more judiciously edited script. Dressed all in pink like giant peony, Courtney Soderberg playing Norma, an excitable mother of the bride, never ceased to entertain as she spun about the stage. Nevertheless, the performances would have been more succinct with fewer repetitions and lines like, “Promise not to get hysterical?” But between Norma and her husband, Roy (Dan Liston), the hysterics never stop. Occasionally struggling with choreography, Liston nonetheless affects a broken arm with incredible consistency and Soderberg reacts to it with the perfect mix of sensitive shock and pitiless disbelief.
The acting in last night’s performances was entirely consistent with the script. But perhaps that is where the production’s shortcomings emerge. Everything from acting to the staging, down to the very double “P’s” embroidered on the pillows of suite 719, was just as would be expected. Perhaps, Plaza Suite would have transcended the mundane platitudes of its dialogue had the directors been a bit less conservative in their vision and provided the audience with a bit more of what was unexpected. But given the structure and content of Simon’s antiquated script, Plaza Suite offered an accurate and enjoyable look at the quiet drama that all too often occurs without being noticed.
Tags: theater, wien