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Aisle Seat: Bittersweet Times in Plaza Suite’s Room 719

Updated: Apr 21

By Naomi Serviss / New York City





Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick


are making hay


acting up a storm


in Neil Simon’s creaky


(but joyously entertaining)


revival of Plaza Suite,


firmly planted in the late ‘60s.


The real-life couple


is charismatically engaging


under the influence of


John Benjamin Hickey’s skillful direction.


The set is pitch perfect


to the period, as are


the groovy clothes and footwear.


Parker and Broderick portray


three sets of different characters


navigating a slew


of complicated relationships.


Shenanigans unfold in Suite 719.


The trio of individual one-act plays


will ring familiar


to those fortunate enough to have attended


the original Broadway show


that enjoyed a robust run


of 1,097 performances.


Claudette Nevins, George C. Scott, and Maureen Stapleton in the original Broadway production of Plaza Suite (1968)
Claudette Nevins, George C. Scott, and Maureen Stapleton in the original Broadway production of Plaza Suite (1968)

Directed by Mike Nichols


Plaza Suite starred George C. Scott


and Maureen Stapleton.


Arthur Hiller’s 1971 film version


placed Walter Matthau


opposite Barbara Harris,


Stapleton and Lee Grant in the three acts.


The movie was considered a failure


by the playwright,


although fans would disagree.


Plaza Suite is more ephemera


than commercial heavyweights like


The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park,


but no less entertaining.


Simon’s later, more autobiographical work–


Brighton Beach Memoirs


and Lost in Yonkers–


rewarded viewers


with Simon’s trademark humor


laced with timeless zingers


and biographical morsels.


The current Broadway trifle


is a comfortable vehicle


for these two storied actors


and household names.


Who wouldn’t want to see


Broadway’s royal couple cavort on stage?


Sex and the City,


and its sequel, And Just Like That…aficionados


will get a kick out of


Parker’s all-in commitment


to her character’s ‘60s wardrobe,


even when matronly dressed.


Broderick is a gifted comic actor


who’s proved his chops


time and again


whatever the material.


Married for 25 years,


the pair hasn’t been on stage together


since 1996’s production of


How to Succeed in Business


without Really Trying.


The then-dating couple made sparks fly


with their on-stage chemistry.


Plaza Suite’s revival’s opening


was slated for March 2020,


but as we all know,


Covid put the kibosh on live performances.


How did these two talented actors


find the time and inclination


to anchor this production?


In 2017, the couple tickled the audience


in a staged reading


before an appreciative crowd


at New York City’s Symphony Space.


It was directed by Hickey,


a venerated actor and personal friend


of the two.


The stage was set.


 


The first act,


Visitor from Mamaroneck,


has Sam and Karen Nash


checking into the same suite


in which they spent their wedding night


23 years past.


Karen’s motivation for booking the suite


gets blindsided


by Sam’s workaholic ways


and eyebrow-raising intimations


of an affair.


It’s a bittersweet mini play,


as Karen longs


for a romantic rekindling.


Sam, business-suited and icy,


is preoccupied with work.


This opener provides plenty of laughs,


but the undertone


is the most serious


of the three.


The second act,


Visitor from Hollywood


is a hoot with


Broderick sporting eye-catching plaid pants


and a turtleneck sweater


(all the rage then).


Muttonchop sideburns telegraph


successful movie producer Jesse Kiplinger’s


devotion to ‘60s style.


His invite to high school sweetheart


Muriel Tate to pay him a visit,


has a surprising outcome


that will not be revealed here!


Costumer Jane Greenwood


and wig master Tom Watson


outfit Muriel in a then-stylish


Pucci print dress (I had one!)


and matching tights, shoes and gloves.


It’s great fun watching Parker


stroll the stage inhabiting


Muriel’s dressed-to-impress character.


Broderick and Parker showcase


their terrific physical comedy chops.


The story may be a tad stale,


but the execution is fabulous.


Sarah Jessica Parker and Mathew Broderick in the “Visitor From Forest Hills” playlet in “Plaza Suite.” (Joan Marcus)
Real-life wife-and-husband acting team Sarah Jessica Parker and Mathew Broderick in Plaza Suite (2022)

The third act,


Visitor from Forest Hills,


is a farcical, zesty romp


that many will recall


from the movie starring Matthau.


The story hinges on prying


Norma and Roy’s daughter Mimsey


out of the bathroom


to take her wedding vows


before an antsy crowd


of friends and relations.


Why revive this old chestnut now?


Why not?


Broadway will always tap


into the steady tourist market


hungry for easily digestible,


lightweight theater.


The tourists are back,


and this production serves


near-perfect family entertainment.


Enjoying three hours of unmitigated joy


(I’m a big Parker fan!)


was a welcome reprieve


from current-event stressors:


–Ukraine

–A new Covid variant

-Flying cross country next month

Broadway’s 2021-2022 season


has barely taken a breath


with 19 shows opening or reopening.


It’s been a whirlwind


run-up to the 75th Tony Awards,


to be hosted by Radio City Music Hall


on June 12th.


Audiences are still required


to be vaccinated and masked


through May 31st.


Since live performances


resumed last fall,


5 million attendees have proven


once again,


that theater is not dead.



 






Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com

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