Broadway review by Adam Feldman
Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite is back on Broadway, and the title character looks great. When the curtain goes up, the set gets entrance applause; designed by John Lee Beatty, that master of envy-inducing decor, it has a golden glow of classic luxury. Simon’s hit 1968 trilogy of short comedies, about three different couples in Room 719 of a ritzy Manhattan hotel, is perhaps less timeless in its appeal. Its main characters are mostly middle-aged, and so is the writing; it is now over 50, and its comic cheek is showing some laugh lines. But the vestiges of laughs are nice wrinkles, as wrinkles go, and while this production doesn’t leave you rolling in the aisles, it is likely to at least leave you smiling.
The three central couples are played by Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, which in theory should let both of them show off their ranges. In practice, Parker does just that; she’s active and specific and very appealing, and she does most of the driving where the humor is concerned. Broderick, by contrast, stays mainly in the safe lane of the clammy, low-energy deadpan shtick he has been plying onstage for 20 years. The contrast between their styles—it sometimes feels like Plaza Sweet and Sour—can be frustrating. She checks in, and he checks out.
That’s especially true of the evening’s first chapter, “Visitor from Mamaroneck,” the longest and least comedic segment of the triptych. Parker plays a supposedly dowdy Westchester wife who has booked a room at the Plaza for her wedding anniversary, complete with champagne and hors d’oeuvres; Broderick is her allegedly gym-obsessed businessman husband, who is mid-midlife crisis and might be carrying on with his secretary, and who will not rise to the romantic occasion. “I’m not having an affair!” he insists. “Then why are you yelling?” she retorts. Aha! The problem is, Broderick isn’t yelling. (Why isn’t he yelling?) The play should be a tennis match of eager serves and defensive returns; instead, too often, it feels like Parker is hitting shots against a wall.
Plaza Suite | Photograph: Courtesy Joan Marcus
Happily, things perk up after intermission. In the sex comedy “Visitor from Hollywood,” Broderick—squeezed amusingly into snug Austin Powers drag—returns as a successful Hollywood producer who invites his high-school girlfriend to his hotel room for an afternoon tryst; after several ruinous marriages, he idealizes her (or says he does) as “the last, sweet, simple, unchanged, unspoiled woman living in the world today.” Parker is the lady in question, a suburban wife and mother dolled up by costumer Jane Greenwood in a darling mod frock; not quite the innocent he’d imagined, she turns out to be obsessively well-versed in the latest Hollywood gossip, and drunk on the musk of his glamour (and vodka stingers).
It’s all very “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and the creepiness of the producer’s passive lechery is offset by funny stage business and a comic pulse that continues to quicken into Plaza Suite’s final section, “Visitor from Forest Hills,” in which Parker and Broderick play the overbearing and increasingly desperate Queens parents of a bride who refuses to come out of the bathroom for her wedding. Director John Benjamin Hickey builds well in this chapter on Simon’s familiar, well-crafted architecture, and all the yelling seems to rouse the leading man from his default state of pained somnambulation; the stars’ teamwork clicks into balance, and the production ends on a high note. Simon’s farce has aged rather more spryly than his other modes in Plaza Suite. The show’s old fashions finally fit.
Plaza Suite. Hudson Theatre (Broadway). By Neil Simon. Directed by John Benjamin Hickey. With Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick. Running time: 2hrs 35mins. One intermission.
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