Sunday, March 18, 2018

Applause! Applause! Review of Neil Simon's Plaza Suite at The Gallery Players by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Neil Simon's Plaza Suite at The Gallery Players was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 8 (2018) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Plaza Suite
Written by Neil Simon
Directed by Alexander Harrington
Scenic Design by Robert Sebes
Costume Design by Jerry Mittelhauser
Lighting Design by Heather Crocker
The Gallery Players
199 14th Street
Park Slope, New York 11215
Reviewed 3/17/18

Plaza Suite opened on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre on February 14, 1968, and closed on October 3, 1970, after 1,097 performances and two previews. Mike Nichols won the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play. The three stories told all involve different characters, performed by some of the same actors, who are staying in Suite 719 of New York City's Plaza Hotel. In Visitor From Mamaroneck, we are introduced to Sam Nash (Robert McEvily) and Karen Nash (Alyssa Simon), a not-so-happily married couple. Karen suspects Sam is having an affair with Jean McCormack (Taylor Graves), his Secretary. Karen has rented the suite as a last-ditch effort to save their marriage. Jim deProphetis was hilarious as the bellhop. In Visitor From Hollywood, Jesse Kiplinger (Robert McEvily), a successful Hollywood producer who lives in Humphrey Bogart's old home in Beverly Hills, has invited the now-married Muriel Tate (Taylor Graves), his old High School girlfriend from Tenafly, New Jersey, to visit him in his hotel room. He has seduction on his mind while Muriel is doing her best to say and do what would be proper in those compromising circumstances. Mitch Tebo played the waiter in both stories. In Visitor From Forest Hills, the most hilarious of the three, Roy Hubley (Mitch Tebo) and his wife Norma Hubley (Alyssa Simon) find that their daughter, Mimsey (Taylor Graves) has locked herself in the bathroom minutes before she is set to marry Borden Eisler (Jim deProphetis). It appears nothing will get her out of the locked bathroom until her boyfriend Borden is called to the suite and mentions the magic words that resolve the crisis. No, not "I love you." 

Visitor From Mamaroneck reminds us how people, over time, can get on each other's nerves. Cute little idiosyncrasies and adorable habits can become intolerable points of torture whether we are talking about close friends or married couples. In Karen's case, she is cheap ("I don't usually give a dollar tip.); talks to strangers, like the waiter, about personal details regarding her family; annoys her husband by singing loudly in the background when he is on a business call; orders champagne and hors d'oeuvres when she knows her husband is on a 900-calorie-a-day diet; urges him to abandon his work to take her to a porn movie; deliberately doesn't pack his pajamas knowing he can't sleep without them; and constantly gets dates and facts wrong such as the date on which they were married, her age, and even the correct suite they stayed in on their honeymoon. Their marriage hasn't been a happy one for many years and Sam has become increasingly distant even to the point of being nasty. He even blows up at Karen's relatively calm reaction to his responses to her accusations. The funniest line in this otherwise serious story is when Karen surmises his affair may have started after he turned 50 years old, and suggests that if his secretary wasn't readily available, he might have even had an affair with the elevator operator in his office building. Sam's response, "It couldn't have been the elevator operator. He's 52 and I don't go for older men."

Visitor From Hollywood reminds us that in the old days, a single or married woman, should not go to the hotel suite of another man, especially an old boyfriend unless she has sex on her mind. In this story, Jesse Kiplinger (Robert McEvily) has invited Muriel Tate (Taylor Graves), his old High School girlfriend, to meet him while he is in New York. Muriel has closely followed Jesse's career and fantasizes what her life would have been like had she not married Larry. Before the #MeToo movement, it was a man's job to try to seduce and sleep with as many women as he could, and it was a woman's job to avoid comprising situations and circumstances. In addition, many times "No" did not really mean "No" since women were expected not to give in too easily. In this case, Muriel says all the right things, such as "I can only stay a few minutes" and " I really have to go. I am parked in a one-hour zone." Yet she finally accepts two Vodka Stingers and rejects going down to the bar to drink them. Despite her objection, Jesse kisses Muriel on the neck and then says, "If you don't object too strenuously, I'm going to kiss you again." Her response starts to change and eventually she says "I have plenty of time." and "Don't bite my neck. It will leave marks." Jesse eventually figures out Muriel gets sexually turned on when he mentions the names of celebrities he has met. He then uses that bat to hit a home run. So much for feigned resistance.

Visitor From Forest Hills was my favorite of the three. The reactions of the two parents, Roy Hubley (Mitch Tebo) and Norma Hubley (Alyssa Simon) as they try to get their daughter Mimsey (Taylor Graves) out of the locked bathroom are priceless. It involves pigeons, a gargoyle, a torn stocking, a ripped jacket, a broken diamond ring, a suspected broken arm, thunder, rain, and a possible lawsuit. With all the havoc Mimsy has created, you reach a point when you wish she'd just "cool it.' 

This production of Neil Simon's Plaza Suite is a must-see. The material holds up well and the acting is amazing. The entire ensemble cast is top-notch. You will have no complaints. I hesitate to point anyone out because I don't want to diminish the stellar, professional performances of the rest of the cast, but I do feel that Mitch Tebo as Roy Hubley in Visitor From Forest Hills was so exceptional that he deserves special mention. In my opinion, he could use a video of his performance in this show as a tape he can submit for his next Broadway audition. The show is extremely entertaining. I highly recommend you see this old gem while you can. Plaza Suite runs at The Gallery Players through Sunday, March 25, 2018. Tickets are $25.00 for Adults and $20.00 for Children 12 and under and Senior Citizens. For reservations, call 212-352-3101 or visit 

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