by Tulis McCall
Well, I have just gone through a few reviews of Neil Simon‘s “Plaza Suite” with Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, both of which castigate this production for being out of touch. Seems as though these two gents think the #MeToo movement has pushed aside any instances of women being treated as “less than worthy of consideration” in general or on the other ens of the scale, “less that perfect”. According to many reviews Neil Simon is out of touch and passé. The #Metoo movement has exposed and solved it all. PS when I went to the WSJ Page review there was a list of most popular articles. Number two on the list is “Why So Many Women in Middle Age Are On Anti-Depressants” – DUH! Looks as though these dismissive reviews may themselves out of touch.
Let’s back up a second here. “Plaza Suite” is a theatrical triptych. Suite 719 at the Plaza and three couples inhabiting it on three different occasions. It is firmly set in 1968 and 1969, the years when feminism was germinating. The first chapter “The Visitor From Mamaroneck” gives us Karen and Sam Nash (when she calls room service she refers to herself as Mrs. Sam Nash, which may grate on the nerves but is accurate). It is their anniversary (or close enough) and that big old house is being painted, so why not make the most of it and spend a couple of days and nights in the city? Well that is Karen’s plan. Sam is just along for the ride. As the relationship crumbles Karen is a fish out of water. A middle aged woman whose children have moved out and who is saddled with a husband who doesn’t seem to be there, or anywhere. When stripped of her defining life elements all that is left is a fighter. Why she fights for this milk-toast of a man (Broderick’s performance here is underwhelming) is a mystery – but then a lot of marriages are.
“Visitor From Hollywood” resuscitates Broderick as a nerdy, needy nebbish of a producer who invites his high school sweetheart to his suite for some carnal bliss. This is the weakest of the three, but it is spiced up by Broderick’s rise from unconsciousness and Parker’s turn on a dime timing. And what woman has never found herself in a compromising situation where she was sorely tempted to do the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. Uncomfortable – yep.
“Visitor from Forest Hills” is the final and most sure-footed of the three. Parker reveals her knack for physical comedy (surprise to moi) and Broderick rises to the occasion. This is pure Lucille Ball slapstick – the wedding day where the bride slipped into the bathroom, locked the door and would not budge. There is face to be saved and bills to be paid. And, when the daughter refuses to acknowledge the parents, there is blame to be slathered about. The dialogue is snappy and these two never miss a nanno-seond. I actually laughed out loud – something I rarely do.
I say Plaza Suite is not out-dated, nor does it pretend to be. This Plaza Suite is relevant in every way. This production directs our attention to what was: the depressing, the embarrassing and the dumb-ass of the late1960’s. This production also reminds us of what still is. People are still clinging to empty marriages; people are still making unwise sexual choice; terrified twenty years-olds (and older) are still getting married. Simon lays it out like a buffet. Whether we partake or blow it off as irrelevant – well THAT, my friends, is on us.
Plaza Suite – by Neil Simon, Directed by John Benjamin Hickey
John Lee Beatty (set design), Tony Award winner Jane Greenwood (costume design), Brian MacDevitt (lighting design)
Through June 26, 2022