Performed March 26th to 28th 2015
Plaza Suite - March 2015
Suite success as Riding Mill cast head to the Big Apple
NEIL Simon’s three-part comedy Plaza Suite was brought to Broadway in 1968 starring George C. Scott. It was brought to the big screen three years later, this time starring Walter Matthau.
Following in such illustrious footsteps was a daunting task for the amateurs of Riding Mill Drama Club. But as usual, they put on a grand, professional production, worthy of Simon’s fast-moving script and what Scott and Matthau brought to the roles.
The play is made up of three acts, involving different characters but all set in Suite 719 of the Plaza Hotel, in New York City.
Wisely, the Riding Mill players sought to ring the changes from the Broadway and cinema versions, where Scott and Matthau played the leads in all three acts.
This not only gave more people a chance to shine, but also enabled the audience to appreciate the very different characters who had booked into the suite.
There was a momentum to this production. The opening act was polished, but not as entertaining as the second, which in turn was not as frenzied and funny as the third.
This is no reflection on the Riding Mill cast. It is the nature of the play.
For as the New York Times critic said after Broadway’s opening night: “After a slow start with the first, it warms up with the second and ends with an all-stops-out, grandstand finish with the third.”
The opening act features a wife, played by Carole Craig-Gilby, trying to re-ignite her marriage to her workaholic and health-obsessed husband, played by Mike Smith. They battled formidably to master the New York accents and get the most of a plot line thin on one-liners and gags.
The middle act saw Shaun Fenwick’s debut as director, an unaccustomed role made easier by the fact that he just has himself and Anita Shepley to direct!
What a wonderful double act they were, as a famous Hollywood producer with the pain of failed marriages behind him tried to rekindle a relationship with his one-time high school sweetheart from New Jersey.
With the benefit of a pacier script, they turned in faultless performances which had the audience giggling at regular intervals.
But both Neil Simon, and the Riding Mill production, saved the best for last.
The plot of a bride refusing to come out of the bathroom, while her mother was beside herself with the ignominy of her daughter jilting her sweetheart, and while her father was totting up the financial cost of the looming wedding day disaster was funny in itself.
Jean Buckley played the distraught, domineering mum with aplomb and with a wonderfully exaggerated accent.
But Peter Woodward as the careworn dad stole the show. Yes he had the best lines of the evening to deliver; but he did so with faultless timing and a rich blend of sarcasm and bathos that would have been a match for the best Messrs Scott and Matthau could have done.
Once again Riding Mill Drama Club delivered the goods. For their ambitious endeavours, they were rewarded by packed houses for a three-night run and a guarantee that the vast majority of the audience will return for their next production in November.
Published, Tuesday, 07 April 2015 Click here for Hexham Courant Link