Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Plaza Suite" is loaded with laughs

Cleveland Press May 8, 1971

The Play House will be closing its season on a happy and presumably successful note this year. The reason is "Plaza Suite," a piece of sure-fire entertainment that opened in the Euclid 77th Theater last night.

Neil Simon, the modern theater's most successful playwright, has comedy talents far and away ahead of anyone else. In "Plaza Suite," he has three one-act plays that range from serious comedy to broad farce. His one-liners, his gags are operating at full force, but in "Plaza Suite" he gets closer to examining human foibles than he did in his earlier plays.

Marriage is the subject under examination, or at least the battle of the sexes -- with Simon saying it's pretty much the same thing.

All three plays take place in a suite in New York's Plaza Hotel. The first involves a couple celebrating a wedding anniversary. At least the wife seems intent on celebrating even if the husband is a little churlish about the whole thing. It is 24 years, or is it 23? They can't agree, and that is not the only thing they can not agree on.

It is a picture of a disintegrating marriage at the moment of truth. At 51 he is looking for his youth and is having an affair with his secretary. But even here Simon has to have fun. "A secretary," shouts the wife. "I expected more from my husband."

If the episode has a fault, it is that sometimes the wife wisecracks too much. But in spite of that, there is little in the way of serious comedy to touch it.

Episode No. 2 is about a Hollywood producer who has invited his old girl friend from New Jersey to stop at the Plaza for old times' sake. Thrice married, his intentions are seduction. The suburban matron, celebrity crazy, is an easy but unpredictable victim downing vodka stingers on an empty stomach and wanting to know, in the middle of an amorous moment, what Frank Sinatra is really like.

The third play is pure farce and very, very physical. While the wedding guests are downstairs drinking all the expensive liquor, the distraught parents of the bride are upstairs trying to lure their daughter out of the bathroom where she has locked herself in.

For all of what he says about parents not understanding their offspring, Simon has really given this one a comic strip mounting. The physical action is exaggerated and crazy and quite hilarious. Father hurling himself at the locked door or climbing out on the window ledge in the rain make humor in this one more visual than the others.

David Frazier does a Herculean job in playing the leading male in all three episodes. His moods change well from play to play -- serious in the first, smooth and wily in the second, bombastic and restful in the third.

Well matched with him are June Gibbons as the wife, Mary Shelley as the awe-struck girl friend and Vivienne Stotter as the distraught mother. John Going has directed with an eye for speed an Paul Rodgers has returned to the Play House after an absence to design a luxurious set.