Stage

Actors Overpower Simon Script at Theatre Southwest

The Setup: Neil Simon's slight, and slightly funny, comedy from 1968 works best when, as in the Broadway original, all parts are played by the same actors. Set in the same suite in NYC's famous Plaza Hotel, each act brings us a new couple, and a different style of comedy.

The Executuion: So, in Act I, we meet a married couple from Mamaroneck -- she, trying to revive their marriage; and he, ultimately 'fessing up to an affair. They toss off patented Simon wisecracks, but the comedy sours.

In Act II, a wolfish Hollywood producer puts the make on his innocent former high school sweetheart, who gets loopier with each vodka stinger and turned on by his recitation of the rich and famous. It's a one-gag scene, for sure, and doesn't go anywhere; but it's an actor's delight. Act III is the most farce-like, as two harried and haggling parents from Long Island attempt to coax their recalcitrant daughter out of the hotel bathroom so she can get married. Clothes get ripped, Mom has heart palpitations, and Dad, walking outside on the window ledge, gets soaked in a rain storm. In the original show, which played for two years on Broadway, two powerhouses, George C. Scott and Maureen Stapleton, went slumming in this comedy under Mike Nichols's Tony Award-winning direction.

When the same two actors play all the leading roles, we're much more forgiving of Simon's sketchy format, since we concentrate on the actors' technical arsenal, impressed by their playing six different characters with such flair and command. Here, at Theatre Southwest, we have six different actors, all very fine, so we end up focusing on the individual scenes, which aren't really that good when they're left to scrutiny. Suzanne King and Casey Coale are the unhappy couple in Act I; Scott Holmes and a bubbly Vicky McCormick are the Hollywood producer and his prey in Act II; and Bob Maddox and Lisa Schofield are the battling, slow-burn parents from Forest Hills.

The Verdict: Collectively, these six are much more interesting, with much more range, than any of their three individual scenes. Simon's no match for these prodigious actors.

(Through January 22. Theatre Southwest, 8944-A Clarkcrest, 713-661-9505.)

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D.L. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since 2003. His theater criticism has earned him a national award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) as well as three statewide Lone Star Press Awards for the same. He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet (St. Martin's Press), now in its fourth printing.
Contact: D. L. Groover