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Sydney review- Plaza Suite: Great for a laugh

By Paul Kiely

 

Plaza Suite

By Neil Simon

Directed by John Grinston, Tui Clark and Ali Bendall

A Genesian Theatre Production by arrangement with ORiGiN Theatrical, on behalf of Samuel French.

Genesian Theatre

420 Kent Street, Sydney

 

Season: 3 February – 2 March 2024   

Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes (Including 20 minute interval)



What goes on in hotel rooms should stay in hotel rooms. But alas, Neil Simon’s ‘Plaza Suite’ exposes the private conversations and lives that transgress just one room in New York City’s Plaza Hotel: Suite 719.

Over three Acts, we see three nights, three different couples and three storylines. The outcomes are an absurd mix of humour, drama and sadness.

In ‘Act One – A Visitor from Mamaroneck’ (Directed by John Grinston), Suite 719 is booked by Sam and Karen Nash (Barry Nielsen and Elizabeth MacGregor) to celebrate their twenty-fourth wedding anniversary. Karen has arrived early and is excited to relive their honeymoon experience. She even boasts of her hopes to the Bellhop (Andrew Badger).

When sales executive Sam arrives, he shows little regard to the occasion and is pre-occupied with getting a major deal over the line. Ignoring Karen’s amorous overtures, which includes a rendition of ‘Close To You’, Sam can only admire his own dazzling white teeth and desire to “do five minutes under a sun lamp”.

What unfolds is the disintegration of a marriage. With “a twelve-room house, son and daughter and more money than I can think of”, Sam risks becoming another statistic of men thinking that the grass is greener elsewhere.

Act Two – A Visitor from Hollywood’ (Directed by Tui Clark) recalibrates the glum mood of the audience. This time Suite 719 has Jesse Kiplinger (Joseph Restubog) staying. “Jesse who” you say? You know, the famous Hollywood producer with a string of successful movies. Disheartened by his thrice failed celebrity marriages, Jesse has invited his high school flame Muriel (Charlotte Launay) for a friendly catch-up.

Jesse wonders if true happiness can be found in a simpler life; a life he had before fame and fortune. There are many funny exchanges between Jesse and Muriel, both well-aware of the likely result of mixing cocktails near an empty bed.

Wedding day blues and a father’s lament are covered in ‘Act Three – A Visitor from Forest Hills’ (Directed by Ali Bendall). Suite 719 has been hired by Roy and Norma Hubley (Peter Gizariotis and Andrea Blight) as a preparation room for their bride daughter Mimsey (Romy Silver).

Mimsey has locked herself in the bathroom and won’t communicate what the problem is. In the meantime, a ballroom of guests await her arrival and Roy counts the additional reception costs with each passing minute. Roy and Norma are quintessential New Yorkers – loud, brash, straight-to-point.

As their patience with Mimsey runs out, they attempt to coax her out any way possible. Sweet-talk, bribes, threats; even an out-of-building experience and attempted door break-down all fail. Finally, two words from the groom (Andrew Badger) is all it takes.

It’s a very funny sitcom-like scenario and is Simon’s way of ending the play on a high.

The three stories in Plaza Suite all touch our emotions. The writing is very 1960’s and reflects an era when gender roles were pigeon-holed. All that aside, it is a great example of Neil Simon’s ability to connect with the audience, as he did in ‘Barefoot In The Park’ and ‘The Odd Couple’.

Production standards were very high. The set was a great replica of a classy New York suite. Costumes were sensational. Above all, the cast were terrific. With an excellent script to work with, they clearly relished their roles.

Plaza Suite is unusual with its three autonomous stories. With the underlying themes of commitment, marriage and loyalty in a modern society, Neil Simon manages to navigate these issues with tact and humou, Plaza Suite is on now at the Genesian Theatre, Sydney.

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