The Bickford’s artistic director, Eric Hafen, has announced an intriguing mix for the 2013-14 season: “The Last Romance,” a New Jersey Premiere about aging lovers; “Knight’s Gambit,”a mystery involving Sherlock Holmes; “Say Goodnight Gracie,” George Burns’ affectionate tribute to Gracie Allen and “Forever Plaid,” a homage to singers of the 1950s and 60s.
Neil Simon’s ‘Plaza Suite’ Weaves Three Sad, Funny Stories at Bickford
MORRISTOWN, NJ – Some people are huge fans of Neil Simon’s; others, not so much. In this collection of three vignettes, the Plaza Hotel in New York City is the setting, Room 719 (or 819, to be more or less exact).
Primarily a play for two actors, Duncan M. Rogers and Hariiett Trangucci are well matched as sparring partners and potential lovers.
In The Visitor from Mamaroneck, the couple has been married for 23 years…or is it 24? Whatever, the wife is thrilled to be back at the Plaza, where they spent their honeymoon. But her husband comes in, completely distracted by business deals. So much for their romantic evening, despite Karen’s new negligee and room service with champagne. What starts out as fairly benign banter soon turns into an exploration of the gaping wounds in their marriage. It gradually comes out that Sam is having an affair, leaving his wife to struggle with her own future.
In the second act, a Visitor from Hollywood calls a former girlfriend, who shows up at his suite. They haven’t seen each other in 16 years, but had dated during high school in Teaneck. Rogers is all smooth and macho as a successful producer, Jesse, while Trangucci is adorable and prim as a now suburban housewife, Muriel. It’s a delicious mix and the most fun of the three stories.
The third is titled a Visitor from Forest Hills. In this scene, Roy and Norma Hubley’s daughter is about to be married, but has locked herself in the bathroom at the Plaza Hotel suite. Her parents become increasingly frantic, trying to reason with her to no avail. Rogers is excellent in his frustration, beside himself with the cost of the wedding hanging in the balance. He finally goes out on a window ledge to try to reach the bathroom...during a thunderstorm, no less. Ultimately, they call in the groom as a last resort. This one, too, has a lot to say about marriage and how couples often lose that sense of wonder over the years.
Brenda Todd and Louis Vetter also make appearances in several roles and carry them off effectively. Jim Bazewicz’s scenic design of a handsome hotel suite is charming in its French décor. Fran Harrison’s costumes for 1968 strike all the right notes.
Director Barbara Krajkowski has found the undercurrents that keep this play grounded, despite its moments of humor.
“Plaza Suite” continues through May 5 at The Bickford Theatre, located in the Morris Museum, 6 Normandy Heights Rd., Morristown. . For tickets, call 973-971-3706 or visit morrismuseum.org.