By Lucy Komisar
Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite is a collection of sitcom sketches that worked in 1968 but a lot less so in 2022. The last about the parents of a young woman terrified of getting married is very funny, the middle extended bit about fans of the celebrity culture is so-so, and the first about an unhappy wife who discovers her businessman husband is having an affair with his secretary is so dated it should have opened with a time lapse warning.
All take place in 1968 in the same gorgeous suite in the Plaza Hotel, a venue for these vignettes about marriage. Sarah Jessica Parker who plays the three middle aged married women is a terrific comic, her husband Matthew Broderick who is the straight man not so much. That’s partly because she inhabits every character and he hardly changes his demeanor, though he rises to some good slapstick in the last act.
Director John Benjamin Hickey sees Simon’s stories through TV sitcom eyes.
The laughs come at the end. Bride-to-be Mimsy (Molly Ranson) is locked in the suite’s bathroom, refusing to come out and join the groom and guests in the ballroom below. What could be a trite plot is enriched by funny, ridiculous slapstick. Dad climbs out on balcony to get into the bathroom. He rips his coat. He never makes it to the bathroom. Broderick does his best acting here, perhaps because perplexity is an emotion he does very well. Thinking of the locked door, I decided that this was a farce, which always requires doors.
The middle story is about a guy who became a Hollywood producer and on a trip to New York meets up with his old girlfriend from Tenafly NJ. He is in plaid pants which is supposed to tell you something. It’s been 17 years since their last date. He is divorced, she is married with three children. He kisses her. She asks, “Do you know Frank Sinatra?” It’s that kind of dialogue. So, the fandom of celebrity. Rather tired trope.
The first play is about Karen and Sam Nash’s anniversary, which starts badly when they disagree about the wedding year. He is 51. The marriage is stale. The only time he looks at her is when he puts drops in his eyes.
The secretary (Molly Ranson) arrives, there’s an urgent need to deal with some documents. Karen is a doormat. She suspects an affair. It’s so last century. And not funny or interesting; nobody laughed.
Neil Simon is part of theater history, and it’s worth seeing what mattered in 1968, but only half of this show was still worth it. The first one-act is hackneyed, the second amusing in looking back, the third very funny because it’s about a bride’s overpowering second thoughts, which hasn’t changed in the intervening decades, or centuries for that matter. You walk out smiling from that very clever story.
“Plaza Suite.” Hudson Theatre, 145 West 44th St. NYC, 661-495-5527. Runtime 2:40. Opened March 28, 2022, closes June 26, 2022.