Dallas Review: Garland Civic Theatre Presents Neil Simon’s “Plaza Suite”

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  • Shawn Stalter, Chief Dallas/Ft. Worth Critic

Garland Civic Theatre’s production of “Plaza Suite” packed a powerful comedic punch which hit a home run with the audience. In director Timothy Doyle’s hands, the show’s skilled cast and crew delivered a robust performance which brought Neil Simon’s popular three-act play to life in a vivid and imaginative way.

Split into three distinct vignettes, “Plaza Suite” highlights the hilarious, often heartbreaking, struggles of relationships. Each unique story in this three-act romp takes place in suite 719 of the upscale Plaza Hotel in New York City circa the late 1960s. At its core, “Plaza Suite” serves up a  sweet dish of comedic delight, but flavors it with a sprinkling of subtle flavors of drama and nuanced emotional complexity.

The first act hits hard with a supremely poignant and engaging story. Here, “Karen Nash” played by talented Robin Coulonge, hopes to rekindle the spark of her lackluster marriage by celebrating a romantic wedding anniversary at the upscale hotel. Unfortunately, her largely preoccupied and disinterested husband, “Sam Nash,” played by director Timothy Doyle, quickly extinguishes all hopes for a blissful evening. Although this act is chock full of laughs, largely due to the bitterly sarcastic broadsides and physical antics of Robin Coulonge, it also possesses an undercurrent of brooding desperation. This contrast shines through Timothy Doyle’s well-rounded, often frantic, performance a “Sam.” He deftly captured his character’s obsession over his physical appearance and relentless focus on work in a highly-engaging performance.

Act two explores a different angle of the dysfunctional romantic relationship genre. Here, the self-confident Hollywood producer “Jesse Kiplinger,” powerfully performed by Steve Golin, invites his high school sweetheart, “Muriel Tate,” played by Polly Harrison, to… you guessed it, suite 719. Although he tries to sell the encounter with this married woman as a chance to “just say hello,” his seductive demeanor, leopard print shirt and well-stocked liquor cabinet seem to suggest his intentions are not entirely innocent. The ensuing interaction, although infused with enough comedic moments to keep the audience well-engaged, actually hints at a much more complex underlying story. Neil Simon’s signature style shines through in this well-crafted act and both Steve Golin and Polly Harrison craft evocative and praise-worthy performances.

The final act of “Plaza Suite” rounded out the evening with some side-splitting physical comedy courtesy of David Tinney, in his role of  “Roy Hubley,” and his wife “Norma Hubley,” performed by Jennifer DeJohn Frawley. Together, in suite 719, of course, they work themselves into a crescendo of hilarious insanity while trying to coax their daughter “Mimsey,” played by Bethany Brown, out of the bathroom. Why has she barricaded herself in the bathroom, you ask? Well, it’s her big wedding day, but she’s suffering from a crippling bout of “cold feet.” Watching her parents come unglued as they desperately work through multiple hairbrained strategies to get her out of the bathroom is riotously funny. Both David Tinney and Jennifer DeJohn Frawley hit it out of the park with their well-timed physical comedy and exasperation.

All three acts share the exceptionally well-appointed, detailed set, crafted by John Hensley. Here, each act flourishes amid spacious and separate rooms which allowed the more physical aspects of the show to play out beautifully. Fans of Neil Simon’s engaging and entertaining style of storytelling are sure to love Garland Civic Theatre’s top-tier performance of “Plaza Suite.”

 

“Plaza Suite” presented by Garland Civic Theatre runs through September 22, 2019, at the Granville Arts Center (300 North 5th St., Garland, TX). The production stars Robin Coulonge as “Karen Nash,” Tim Doyle as “Sam Nash,” Steve Golin as “Jesse Kiplinger,” Polly Harrison as “Muriel Tate,” Jennifer DeJonh Frawley as “Norma Hubley” and David Tinney as “Roy Hubley.” The show also features Patrick LaBruyere in the roles of “Bellhop” and “Borden Eisler,” Mark Inman as “The Waiter” and Bethany Brown as “Jean McCormack” and “Mimsey.”

Learn more about Garland Civic Theatre and reserve your seat for an upcoming performance by visiting https://www.garlandcivic.org/.

Photo credit:  Cheryl Pellett