Take a still-grieving widower, a divorcee who wants to start a new man-free life, and their nearest and dearest, who think they ought to be together, and you might think you have a typical Neil Simon comedy. But Simon’s CHAPTER TWO, in an amazing production by Sketch Club Players of Woodbury, is much more than that. As you probably know, much of Simon’s work is inspired by his own experiences. This play is based on his life after the death of his first wife and his meeting with actress Marsha Mason, who became his second wife. There is always a serious undercurrent in Simon’s work, and this comedy-drama is perhaps the most successful in combining his legendary humor with serious situations.
Novelist George Schneider (Michael Post) has just returned from Europe, having visited only the places where he once went with his wife Barbara, who recently died. His brother Leo (Steve Ciapanna), a successful press agent, tries to cheer him up, making jokes about George’s neglect of his apartment and arranging for him to meet women, but all is in vain. Jennie Malone (Danielle DiPillo), an actress divorced from her football player husband, resists the efforts of her kooky best friend Faye (Laura Bongiovanni) to persuade her to start dating again. Leo and Faye are mutual acquaintances who both believe George and Jennie would be perfect for each other. It takes some doing, but the two finally meet—at first by phone (and by accident), then in person. In very little time, they are crazy about each other and rush into marriage despite the advice of both Leo and Faye, who think they should wait.
The beginning of the second act is a bit of a shock as George and Jennie return from a Barbados honeymoon spoiled by bad weather and “Montezuma’s revenge.” Their idyllic love has been replaced by bitterness and quarreling. Why, it is not certain. Perhaps guilt on George’s part at marrying so soon after Barbara’s death. Perhaps disappointment on Jennie’s part. But hold on, it’s not over yet. Meanwhile, Faye, a married woman, has borrowed Jennie’s apartment to have an affair (guess with whom?) and everything is going hilariously wrong.
Under the superb direction of Steve Allen is a cast that any director—or Neil Simon himself–would be proud of. Post as George is sometimes touching, sometimes funny, always believable. You are with him all the way. Ciapanna’s Leo has most of Simon’s humorous lines and doesn’t miss a trick in delivering them. DiPillo is so lovable as Jennie that every man in the audience must wish he was George. In her serious speech in the second act, her emotional intensity drew applause from the audience. And Bongiovanni—how to describe her Faye? Bubbly, zany, wonderful! And you should see her costumes. The dual set, representing George’s and Jennie’s apartments, provides a perfect background for the action. Altogether, CHAPTER TWO is stunning, thought-provoking—and, by the way, extremely entertaining. It’s a not-to-be missed theatrical experience.
by Neil Simon
Directed by Steve Allen
May 31-June 9, 2013
Sketch Club Players, Inc
433 Glover Street
Woodbury, NJ 08096-2623