'Plaza Suite' open for business

Susan Patterson and Jeff Allen prepare for the show. Photo/Special.

By Joan Doggrell

Gear up your brain and dust off your funny bone for another uproarious Neil Simon farce. “Plaza Suite,” one of Simon’s best-loved New York plays, opened at Newnan Theatre Company this week and runs through February 2.
“’Plaza Suite” has slapstick moments, romantic moments, plus a little heartbreak in the first act. If you like comedy light and funny you’ve got that. Broad and farcical, a little hint of drama to it, you’ve got that too,” said NTC’s artistic director Tony Daniel.

“Neil Simon is one of those playwrights that actors love because the dialogue is so crisp and so tight it’s almost shotgun style,” added Daniel. “There are no big dramatic pauses, no big soliloquys. It’s a constant flow back and forth, a lot like normal conversation.”
The three-act play tells the stories of three different couples who successively occupy Suite 719 of the New York Plaza.

“The first story is about a couple who is there to celebrate their anniversary and try to get some spice back in their marriage,” said Daniel. “Sadly, the outcome is disappointing.” The two argue about whether or not the husband is having an affair with his secretary, and the act ends with the husband leaving. Jennifer Dorrell and Lamar Payne star in Act I, which Daniel directs. Samantha Teague plays the secretary.

Dorrell, in turn, is directing Act II. This story, starring Jeff Allen and Susan Patterson, is about a couple who were once high school sweethearts.
As Daniel explains, “The man has gone on to become a successful Hollywood producer. Back in New York to sign some contracts for a new movie, he decides to see if he can woo his old high school sweetheart again. She, however, wants to spend more time talking about all the stars he knows and the places he’s been and the people he’s met than actually getting down to the real business of the interlude.”

Jeff Allen is directing Act III about a couple who is staying at the Plaza for their daughter’s wedding. Tony Daniel and Mary Caroline Moore play the lead roles.
“The daughter is getting married downstairs in the Green Room, one of the swankiest places in New York City to have your wedding. The father has spent all his money on his only child and got everything she wanted – and now she has locked herself in the bathroom and won’t come out because she’s having second thoughts,” said Daniel. “The father is about to have a hysterical fit because he sees all the money he’s spent going down the drain.”

“Plaza Suite” was first performed on Broadway in 1968 at the Plymouth Theatre and starred George C. Scott and Maureen Stapleton, who played the leading roles in all three acts. Though Simon originally wrote “Plaza Suite” for three different couples, the Scott/Stapleton duo started a tradition of one couple playing in all three acts. This practice continued for 25 or 30 years. Later, producers changed their tactics and selected three different sets of stars for the parts in order to attract a larger audience.
In the movie version, Walter Matthau played all three men with three different female leads.
NTC’s “Plaza Suite” features a cast of mostly familiar faces to Newnan audiences. In fact, if you come looking for old friends you won’t be disappointed.
“We decided to pare things down and see what we could do with just a small group of people,” said Daniel. “So we’ve cast the show with one person from each act directing another act. We’re trying to keep participation as close to the six as possible, though we’ve added William Newman, Craig Pollack and Samantha Teague in some incidental roles.”

“Samantha Teague is relatively new to our group. She’s done a couple of shows, but she came in and just blew us all away. William Newman is one of our younger actors. He was in ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ in a lot of chorus scenes. Craig Pollack has been our graphic designer for almost a year. He wanted to try his hand at being onstage, so we gave him a shot.”
Jeff Allen has starred in and directed so many plays – most recently “’night, Mother” – that he was given an NTC Lifetime Achievement award. Jennifer Dorrell – also a Lifetime Achievement Award winner and NTC’s Managing Director – has not been on stage in some time, and she wanted to change that. Her recent directing credits include “Spamalot and “Annie.”

Susan Patterson has starred in “Driving Miss Daisy” as well as in “Rumors” and “The Glass Menagerie.” Lamar Payne played Boolie in “Driving Miss Daisy” and opposite Tony Daniel as the embattled U.S. President in “November.” Daniel also starred with Payne in “The Odd Couple.” Daniel has played in “Rumors,” “Epic Proportions,” and – with Mary Caroline Moore -- in “On Golden Pond.” Moore’s credits also include “Mrs. Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge” and “Rumors.”

“It’s been fun so far,” said Daniel. “We got that chemistry just reading through the script. So on stage it’s even better. Since most of the cast members have been on stage together before, we know each other’s vocal patterns, how we walk, and how we talk. It’s like a close circle of friends getting together to put a show on.”

To purchase tickets, visit Newnan Theatre Company’s web site at http://www.newnantheatre.org or visit the box office before or after any performance. The theatre is located in historic downtown Newnan at 24 First Avenue.