Monday, March 21, 2022

Plaza Suite (Broadway)


Plaza Suite 719 has been a witness to one too many couples and their marital issues. Visiting from Mamaroneck, husband and wife Sam (Matthew Broderick) and Karen Nash (Sarah Jessica Parker) have been married for over two decades and today is supposed to be their anniversary. However, he is always busy with work, and she begins to suspect that he might be having an affair, which she says she would totally understand given his apparent midlife crisis. Visiting from Hollywood, bigtime producer Jesse Kiplinger (Matthew Broderick) tries to woo back his high school sweetheart Muriel Tate (Sarah Jessica Parker), who is now married with three children and trying to keep up appearances of a happy family despite her growing liquor dependency. Visiting from Forest Hills, Norma (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Roy Hubley (Matthew Broderick) try in vain to get their soon-to-be-wed daughter out of the toilet after she locks herself in on her wedding day due to cold feet.

I am not a fan of Parker, even though she has been ubiquitous and hard to avoid on social media lately because of her television projects. In any case, crossing over to the stage is always like a litmus test for film and television actors. Here, there are no multiple takes. Parker totally dominates the first act with her perfect comic timing. The versatility displayed via the three distinct characters she portrays is an impressive mark of a good thespian. Maybe she should do more theater roles after this.

Broderick, I only know because of Godzilla, and it’s been ages since that film came out. His Sam Nash gets overshadowed in the first act, perhaps due to Parker’s Karen being the flashier character. He catches up in the second act, though, as he brings Jesse Kiplinger to life. He then goes for the kill in the final act, which is also the case for Parker as they both rely on hysterics to evoke laughter. Despite being the shortest, the third act is a riot. In this regard, they succeed, and the audience couldn’t have been any wilder.

The production design is simplistic and solitary. You don’t have any other set aside from the already mentioned Plaza Suite. The only special effects here is the rain from outside the window during the third act, which is accomplished with enough believability via actual water and credible sound effects. The room design is elegant, and the opulence makes everything look even more legit. In a way, the suite is a character in itself, passive as it might, lending a conducive setting for the conversation-heavy material of the play while providing enough space for some exaggerated movements.

The overlapping theme linking the three stories is marriage and how it develops or deteriorates over time, seen through the eyes of couples spending a day in a luxurious 7th floor suite. The venue lends a semblance of intimacy which makes you believe as though you were a captured voyeur eavesdropping on actual couples within the four walls of what is supposed to be a private hotel room. A bit long given how the material has three acts, Plaza Suite refuses to be boring by banking on witty banter between its two lead actors.

I rarely enjoy straight plays because of my short attention span, but the comedic timing in this one is gold. Arguing whether Parker and Broderick have chemistry is moot given their status as a real-life couple. What you get to appreciate here is how they, as co-actors, give one another enough leeway to shine. Nobody is hogging the spotlight, what you see instead is a generous give-and-take between two seasoned actors. It’s a partnership after all, and their rapport makes this narrative work.

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