Spotlighters Presents Neil Simon's 'London Suite'

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The name of playwright Neil Simon should bring smile to any theater-lover's face. You may recall The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, or Plaza Suite.

London Suite is a different ball game. It started Off-Broadway at the Union Square Theatre with the likes of Carole Shelley, Kate Burton and Jeffrey Jones. It later became a Hallmark and NBC Entertainment television movie made in LonDon Starring such luminaries at Patricia Clarkson, Kelsey Gtammer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards, and Madeline Kahn among others who arrive at the posh Connaught Hotel.

This is Simon's third Suite (1995) after Plaza (1968) and California ((1976) and probably his last.

It was a smart choice for Spotlighters to present this light-hearted comedy on its postage stamp stage and though it has its flaws, it is given a smart presentation directed by Bob Russell and Ivan Lawson. I would call London Suite a perfect play for people who don't THINK they would enjoy live theater. In a way, it's like a football game with four quarters and a half-time, but commercial free. Each quarter is about twenty minutes.

The four playlets occur in this post London hotel suite. The topics include a writer who is upset with his accountant, an American widow (who loves to shop for shoes) and her married daughter discussing whether the widow should date a rich un-married Scotsman, a get together of a divorcee reuniting after many years with her bisexual husband, and an odd American couple who misplace their tickets to Wimbledon and the slapstick that normally accompanies one with a serious back injury.

There's nothing heavy here. It's Neil Simon, not at his best, but it is Neil Simon. You can expect to laugh at the farce, enjoy the romance, and sympathize with one whose investments are compromised. (Think of a victim of Madoff facing him in a hotel room.)

I will admit I was a little taken aback in "Settling Accounts" when a Welsh writer confronts his agent with a gun about why his investments are now gone. The duet of Frank Vince (in a gorgeous authentic Irish sweater) who plays the gun-holding distraught writer Brian and his agent Billy (Todd Krickler) who is caught with a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires work very well together. Wait till you hear the explanation Billy attempts to explain to Brian about an alleged deal that would make them both rich.

"Going Home" concerns an hilarious Hillary Mazer who plays Sharon Semple (a widow) who has a shoe fetish and her daughter Lauren (Megan Therese Rippey) who insists her Mom go on a date to celebrate her last evening in London with a rich, unmarried Scot. Mazer's performance alone is worth the price of admission.

Act II begins with "Diana and Sidney" which I think is the highlight of the four plays. While this is the least comic of the quartet of stories, it is quite moving. Diana (Connie Ross) is divorced from Sidney (Jonathan Claiborne) who now lives on a Greek island with his male partner who has become quite ill with lung cancer. Joy Baldwin plays Grace, Diana's personal assistant.

Sidney meets up with Diana to help with the medical treatment that Sidney can't afford and it's quite clear Diana's love for her ex-husband has not abated. Claiborne and Ross work realistically as a couple. They are two terrific performers.

The final segment, "The Man on the Floor" is typical Simon. Mark (Todd Krickler) has a bad back and he and his wife Annie (Victoria Mansuri) are asked to leave their suite because they have accidentally taken Kevin Costner's suite. Frank Vince returns from Act I to play the incompetent physician, Dr. McMerlin. The audience loved it.

London Suite ends this coming Sunday (Feb. 1). You certainly will be entertained. For tickets, call 410-752-1225 or visit www.spotlighters.org.

Saturday, January 31, Spotlighters is having CLEAN-UP DAY from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They are looking for an hour or two of help. If you are available during the week from Feb. 2-6, you can also help. Send an email to FUZZ@spotlighters.org or call 410-752-1225.

 

For comments: write to cgshubow@broadwayworld.com.

 

 



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From This Author Charles Shubow