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Review: CALIFORNIA SUITE at Castle Craig Players

Review: CALIFORNIA SUITE at Castle Craig Players

California Suite features four playlets in one.

On Saturday, October 15, 2022, I had the pleasure of seeing Neil Simon's CALIFORNIA SUITE as performed by the Castle Craig Players at the Almira F. Stephan Memorial Playhouse in Meriden, CT. CALIFORNIA SUITE is different from a typical Neil Simon play in that rather than being one continuous story, it is four separate playlets that have three things in common: location, location, and location. Some audience members may be familiar with this concept in that it was used in A.R. Gurney's The Dining Room. In CALIFORNIA SUITE, the location is not a dining room, but in Suite 203 & 204 in the Beverly Hills Hotel, a hotel that incidentally has lousy room service, but an entertaining cleaning staff.

The set features the side of the suite with the bed on stage right, and a couch on stage left, with the door that separates the room in the middle, while the bathroom door is on the bedroom side, and the entrance door on the couch side. Director Pam Amodio and the cast make excellent use of the entire stage.

Having never previously seen CALIFORNIA SUITE in any capacity, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I am generally a fan of Neil Simon's slap-stick farcical writing. The classic Neil Simon style that I was used to in shows such as Rumors surfaces in CALIFORNIA SUITE, in the fourth playlet, which is by far my favorite of the four.

The fourth playlet revolves around two young married couples who see each other as "best friends" and vacation together, but have their friendship tested after a series of unfortunate events.

The scene begins when the first couple, Mort and Beth, enters the suite, with Beth in great pain, feeling as if she had broken her foot in their recent doubles tennis match against the other couple. Mort is furious with the other couple for what he perceives as their deliberate taking advantage of the fact that Beth's shoe was untied. Mort blames Beth's potentially broken foot on the other couple's lobbing of the tennis ball. Michael Jack Kaczynski and Malena Gordo bring energy and feeling to their respective roles as Mort and Beth. Beth's comical sass and spunk combined with Mort's excessive unjustified anger make for an entertaining couple who are fun to watch. While Mort uses the yellow pages to try to find a doctor who could come to them on Sunday, July 4th, Beth rejects doctor after doctor, merely because she does not like the sounds of the doctors' names. When the other couple calls to see if Beth is alright and to see how they can help, Mort gives a strong and impassioned response that clearly communicates his outrage.

Michael Jack Kaczynski and Malena Gordo have strong stage chemistry with each other, as well as with cast members Bret Olson and Katie Kirtland, who phenomenally portray the other couple Stu and Gert, respectively. Stu is much more level-headed than Mort, yet still capable of being provoked, which makes him the perfect straight man for over-the-top Mort to play off. The Mort provoked argument with Stu is comically juxtaposed with Beth complimenting Gert on her perfume, all four cast members perfectly delivering their lines to maximize the comedic effect of the scene.

Gert would soon enter the bathroom, where she accidentally shatters a ninety dollar perfume bottle, a moment that threatens the tranquility that had previously been shown between Beth and Gert. Beth's anger is soon quelled, however, by Stu expressing willingness to reimburse them the ninety dollars.

The hilarity skyrockets when it is decided that Mort and Stu would both try to physically bring Beth over to the bed, to help rest her foot. They go on either side of her, but disagree on which way to bring her, which leads to Mort and Stu essentially having a tug-o-war over Beth, while Beth is already in pain over her perceived broken foot. Beth's uncomfortable alarmed reaction compared with Mort and Stu's lackadaisical attitude towards it, while they were more focused on being right about which way to bring her was perfectly delivered by the three cast members who provide physical comedy that matches their verbal comedy. Before they manage to get Beth to the bed, Beth goes into a hilarious verbal tirade in Spanish, regarding Mort and Stu's ineptness in effectively transporting her to the bed without incident.

Speaking of incidents, Gert would soon cut her finger on a shattered piece of the broken perfume bottle glass, and soon hit her head on the way up from the floor, which would then lead to her fainting on stage, Katie Kirtland falling in such a skillful way that the faint looks real from the audience's perspective, as she joins the other three cast members in bringing physical comedy to the show.

When Gert regains her consciousness, Stu and Mort decide that it would be best to bring Gert over to the bed, so she can rest beside Beth, while Gert recovers from her injuries, too. Stu and Mort lift Gert up, one by the arms, the other by the feet. Rather than gently and carefully placing Gert onto the bed, however, they first start swinging her back and forth, as if she was a child who requested to be thrown onto the bed.

After an exchange of heated words, Stu and Mort would soon start grappling with each other, while the wives watched from the bed. Their fight trickled into the bathroom, where Mort and Stu would injure each other. Soon, Mort and Stu, in their pain, would end up on the bed, while their wives were still on the bed.

This fourth playlet is the classic type of farcical madness that Neil Simon excels at writing. While I could personally do without the excessive profanity and blasphemy that are common in Neil Simon's plays, his writing otherwise shows a level of comedic genius that very few playwrights have been able to match. Clearly, these four cast members greatly enjoy their roles, as they bring a high level of energy that resonates throughout the audience.

CALIFORNIA SUITE is scheduled to continue to run through October 23, 2022. For times and tickets, please go to https://cloud.broadwayworld.com/rec/ticketclick.cfm?fromlink=2203492®id=60&articlelink=https%3A%2F%2Fcastlecraigplayers.org%2Ftickets%2F?utm_source=BWW2022&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=article&utm_content=bottombuybutton1.




From This Author - Sean Fallon


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