‘Plaza Suite’ at The Little Theatre of Alexandria

FOUR AND A HALF STARS
Step into The Plaza, one of the most upscale venues and hotels in Upper Manhattan. Plaza Suite, a Tony Award-winning comedy written by Neil Simon in 1968, welcomes audiences to Room 719 as it captures the up-and-down dynamics and tensions of marriage with smart humor. Through its production of Plaza Suite, the quaint yet flourishing Little Theatre of Alexandria brings theatre-goers three acts of confrontational wedding anniversaries, meetings of seduction, and hysterical marital preparations. Each act is brought to life with superbly executed and humorous performances.

Amy Solo (Karen Nash) discusses her life with Erblin Nushi (The Waiter), while Jack Stein (Sam Nash) looks on. Photo courtesy of LTA.

Amy Solo (Karen Nash) discusses her life with Erblin Nushi (The Waiter), while Jack Stein (Sam Nash) looks on. Photo by Matthew Randall.

The first hotel guest the audience meets is spiteful, brazen New York woman Karen Nash, played by Amy Solo. Solo gives a strong, humorous performance alongside her counterpart Jack B. Stein who plays her preoccupied, calorie-counting husband Sam Nash. Together, the two transform Room 719 into a space of animosity while still eliciting plenty of laughs from the audience. In Act II, Richard Isaacs and Shelagh Roberts give stand-out performances as famous movie producer Jesse Kiplinger and his wide-eyed old flame Muriel, respectively. Roberts’ gaga reactions to Isaac’s tales of Hollywood are given with loud and clear inflection, and their energy together is enough to fill the deliberately empty hotel room for the entire act. Bernard Engel and Anna Paine West as Roy and Norma Hubley, a bitter older couple, are equally entertaining in their scramble to commence their daughter’s wedding all while straining their own marriage.

The Little Theatre’s production of Plaza Suite is especially innovative in Director Shawn G. Byer’s personal decision to set each act in its own time period. By utilizing his understanding of each act, Byer determined an appropriate year for each set of characters’ quarrels. The assignment of three politically varied years to each act adds a new dimension to the play that is not present in other productions, as it gives the mentality of every character and relationship a deeper contextual, historical significance.

Although the entire play is set in Room 219 at the Plaza Hotel, the characters and set are adjusted accordingly for each act and are kept relevant. Between each act, Prop Designers Betty Dolan and Rebecca Sheehy switch out the furniture, drapery, and even telephone of the spacious and sophisticated hotel room designed by Set Designer Marian Holmes so the set always resembles a classy hotel room of the given time period.

Richard Isaacs (Jesse Kiplinger) romances Shelagh Roberts (Muriel Tate). Photo courtesy of  LTA.

Richard Isaacs (Jesse Kiplinger) romances Shelagh Roberts (Muriel Tate). Photo by Matthew Randall.

The actors appeared authentic as well thanks to Costume Designers Ashley Adams Amidon and Heather Norcross. Fashion from every era was executed nicely, from Victorian lace dresses to corny plaid slacks to smart business attire. Visually pleasing slide shows designed by George Alberts that represent the culture of each time period precede every act and help the audience adjust to a new setting. Each slide show is accompanied by corresponding pop, classic rock, or opera music chosen by Sound Designer Alan Wray.

The Little Theatre of Alexandria’s production of Plaza Suite is as suave as a stay at the hotel itself. Make a reservation soon.

Running Time:  Two hours and 20 minutes, with one intermission. 

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Plaza  Suite plays through June 24, 2014 at The Little Theater of Alexandria – 600 Wolfe Street, in Alexandria, VA.  For tickets, call (703) 683-0496, or purchase them online.

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