By: Bernard Carragher
April 28, 2022: Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, who are real life spouses, have recently recovered from Covid and are back on Broadway in a revival of Neil Simon’s 1968 “Plaza Suite” at the Hudson Theater on West 44th Street. “Plaza Suite” is a slim Simon effort and consists of three separate one act plays— one serious , one comic, one farce. It was Simon’s fifth play and it was another hit. Simon had struck Broadway gold in the early 1960’s with four successful comedies “Come Blow Your Horn,” “Barefoot in the Park,” “The Odd Couple,” and “The Star Spangled Girl.”
Simon was the first playwright since the 1920’s to have four plays running on Broadway. The press crowned him as Broadway’s Laugh Master. While Simon said he wanted to grow and become more serious. Like echos of icons like Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams. Although Simon’s plays are unpretentious the author was always artful and funny. In those early plays he learned how to piece together fragments of wit and humor into a dramatic pattern, making sense of nonsense. Over the years he grew into a very skillful playwright winning shelves of awards and in l991 he won a Pulitzer Prize for his brilliant “Lost in Yonkers.”
Simon always assembled the best productions. On the original “Plaza Suite” he had director Mike Nichols, who had done “Barefoot in the Park” and “The Odd Couple.” As stars theater legends George C. Scott and Maureen Stapleton were signed. Though Mr. Scott wanted to quit opening night at the tryout in Boston. He thought the material was too light. Nichols somehow coddled him to stay on for six months.
“Plaza Suite,” 54 years later, as you might expect, seems tired, and the characters and plots are pretty passe. There is not too much for fine actors like Ms. Parker or Mr. Broderick to work with. The irony is that in 1983 Mr. Broderick won his first Tony award playing Eugene Jerome, modeled on Mr. Simon in the excellent “Brighton Beach Memoirs”.
Simon’s first try at a “serious” play is the one act “A Visitor From Mamaroneck”. It concerns suburban wife Karen Nash and her husband Sam. She has chosen a gorgeously designed Plaza suite by John Lee Beatty ,719, where 24 years before they occupied on their honeymoon. Karen is feeling sentimental and orders food and a bottle of champagne. Sam arrives disgruntled trying to finish a business deal might have to go back to the office. Karen tries to lighten him up and urges him to forget business and take on the town. It turns out he had a date with his secretary and it’s all part of middle age. Karen asks him to cancel, but he can’t. Sam leaves. The champagne arrives with two glasses. Leaving Karen center stage alone as the curtain falls. A bleak ending.\ for the first play.
Act Two’s could be a 50’s sit-com, “A Visitor From Hollywood”. Movie producer Jesse Kiplinger, looks the role with a short California hair-do and sporty L. A . clothes. Originally from Tenafly, N. J. he has invited old girl friend Muriel Tate from high school over to the Plaza. Jesse is hospitable and still thrilled by Muriel’s good looks. She loves hearing about all the Hollywood stars he works with. Of course, it’s 1968 and all his star friends and workers are dead. The only one that was still alive was Julie Andrews. After some vodka vodka stingers they have both had tough times with marriages. He had several divorces and she had a bad marriage. Slowly as the afternoon sun is fading away they wend their into suites bedroom. After 17 years Muriel and Jesse are still percolating high schoolers.
Play Three is the best of “Plaza Suite” titled “A Visitor From Forest Hills,” a Feydeau – like farce. It allows Ms. Parker and Mr. Broderick physical energy into their performances and get some true laughs out of the audience. Norma and Roy Hubley are trying to get their daughter, Mimsey, married to Bordon Eisler. But Mimsey has locked herself in the the suite’s bathroom. Roy tries to speak to her through the key hole. Then he tries to knock down the door with a large chair and splits his rented morning suit in half. Then he looks out the window and sees the Hotel’s ledge. That’s how he will get into the bathroom. Carefully he walk along the ledge until a spring shower soaks him and his daughter has locked the bathroom window. By the time returns he looks like a maniac. Norma is in shambles. Finally Bordon arrives and solves the problem with two words. The ceremony begins downstairs in the Plaza ballroom and the audience is happy.
Hudson Theater, 139 W. 44th St., NYC.
Tue 7pm, Wed 2pm & 8pm, Thu 7pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 3pm.
Running time: two hours and 40 mins. including intermission. $109—$599. www.telecharge.com.
March 28—June 26
Photography: Joan Marcus