You may have heard the expression "Life is not funny." Well, you might change your mind after seeing the latest Sumter Little Theatre comedy, Neil Simon's "Plaza Suite." The well-known playwright had the knack of focusing realistic people types and dilemmas that could have a humorous side.
Arranged in three parts, identified by The Sumter Item's feature contributor Ivy Moore as "Visitor from Mamaroneck," "Visitor from Hollywood" and "Visitor from Forest Hills," the play reveals the complex situations that take place in Plaza Suite Room 719. Director Eric Bultman hit the jackpot casting the play: each character brings incredible honesty to the characters and situations.
Heather Turner (Karen Nash) is spectacular. The audience witnesses her evolving personality - hopeful, excited, ordering champagne, setting out her black nightie, readying Room 719 as a surprise for her wedding anniversary with her husband, Sam Nash (Morgan Wood). The two actors do not miss a beat or nuance. Wood plays his character as a businessman tired from a hard day's work, oblivious at first to the significance of the room and date. The audience lives through Turner's incredible chain of reactions - disappointment, disbelief, rejection, pleading, grasping for self-respect, anger, defiance and poignant realization that her marriage has disintegrated. Wood keeps a calm, controlled attitude until Turner's insistent defiance pushes him into reluctant honesty. Although the plot seems sad, Simon's handling of the incident and characters develops the dialogue from apologetic to caustic with sensitivity, humor and honesty.
Section two of the play reveals the other two stories connected to Room 719. Charlotte Drayton is well cast as Muriel Tate, a tall stately housewife and long ago friend of Jesse Kiplinger, rising producer, played by Adrian Rios. Reluctantly Charlotte enters as Muriel, demurely dressed in a white dress and white gloves. The interplay and timing between the two is marvelously funny. The visual stage - business with the drinks, gloves and a few other props - make Rios' seduction scene even funnier. Although he does an excellent job, I personally wish Rios would have played the rou with a little more wickedness.
Imagine spending $8,000 on a wedding only to have the bride Bri Gray (the bride-to-be) lock herself in the bathroom and refuse to come out. Gwyn Waters does a strong job as the frustrated mother Norma Hubley. She wheedles, cajoles, threatens, pleads, begs and violently pounds on the bathroom door, to no avail. In desperation, she calls downstairs to her husband who is waiting with the rest of the wedding party.
With the authority of Iago, William Paul Brown (Roy Hubley) commands the stage but makes no impact on his hiding daughter. The scene evolves from one comedic event to another. (If you don't laugh, there may be no hope for you). Finally, the impatient groom Emmanuel Weston enters and shouts the magic words: "Cool it!"
The set construction and painting establish suitable surroundings for all three stories and a clever stage format for the activities. Somehow costumer Sylvia Pickell manages to find just the right outfits, especially Drayton's white dress and Waters' mother-of-the-bride dress. The onstage art work by Paul Kaufman brings additional glamor to the set.
To say that Director Eric Bultman did an excellent job is an understatement. Carlos Waters (waiter) and Jennica Greco (Jean McCormack) acted their parts with, as all the other cast members, just the correct amount of believability.
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