Director Phyllis Bastarache Brings New Life to Old Favorite: PLAZA SUITE at Footlighters Theater

by Lisa Panzer

Woody Gray, Chris Moran, Bev Smith, and Tony Filipone in PLAZA SUITE

The audience “eavesdrops” and titters as three different dysfunctional couples successively occupy Suite 719 of Plaza Hotel, NYC in three vignette style acts that make up Neil Simon’s PLAZA SUITE. Although this play is set in the 1960s, the humor remains applicable over forty years later. Take away the prim gloves, stylish hats, perfectly polished shoes and other period adornments, add modern attire and the same pathos can be seen in relationships today; the pitfalls and the parodies yet poignant.

Annette Traci’s warm and witty portrayal of Karen Nash in the first act, “Visitor From Mamaroneck,” wins the audience over right away. Her even comedic timing is terrific, and her repartee with all other characters, including her interludes talking with herself, well done. The pacing between Annette and Dan Gudema as Sam Nash, her double dealing detaching husband, is balanced and beautifully laced with zingers such as [Sam] “Let’s be nice to each to each other” and [Karen] “Okay, who goes first?”

Randy Weinstein’s wardrobe and stage schtick as Producer Jesse Kiplinger in the second act, “Visitor from Hollywood,” provokes immediate laughs. Kiplinger is tired of his Hollywood life and is looking to reunite with his former sweetheart, so he invites her to suite 719. Leigh Anne Johnson does well as airy Jersey housewife Muriel Tate, delivering her lines wide-eyed while looking over the heads of the audience, as she imagines what her old beau’s new life as a movie producer must be like, then snapping to like a marionette whose strings are being pulled back to regular life when Kiplinger makes advances. Both actors make good use of silence and physicality.

In the third act, “Visitor from Forest Hills,” Tony Filipone and Bev Smith play Roy and Norma Hubley, a couple who are trying to get their daughter Mimsey (also Johnson) out of the bathroom of suite 719, and married. Some great stage business and antics escalate between the couple, culminating in high slapstick moments as the bride’s father goes all out to get his daughter to the altar. Great fun to watch!

Woody Gray as the bellhop and as Borden Mimsey’s fiancé, Anne Lanak as Jean McCormick (the other woman) and Christopher Moran as the handsome, well-mannered Waiter are bright in their roles and do a good job as supporting actors.

The set (Lesley Serruta, Nancy Wendell, Anne Lanak, Julia Chappell, Phyllis Bastarache), an elegantly dressed suite in hues of green and gold, was changed up a bit for each act. The period music (David Bastarache) set a good tone for the show and a few people the audience were chair dancing, and the lighting (Andrew Pavlin) was even and appropriate.

Kudos to director Phyllis Bastarache, cast and crew for a delightfully done production of the popular play, PLAZA SUITE!

By Neil Simon
Directed by Phyllis Bastarache
October 19–November 3, 2012
Footlighters Theater
58 Main Avenue
Berwyn, PA 19018-3709

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