Joseph Restubog and Laura Wallace in Plaza Suite at the Genesian Theatre

All three encounters in Neil Simon’s PLAZA SUITE (1968), each of which feature different characters, take place in the one hotel suite, Suite 719 of New York City’s Plaza Hotel.

The first meeting, Visitor From Mamaroneck, features a wife, Karen (Elizabeth MacGregor), who is preparing the hotel suite for her husband, Sam (Barry Nielsen), who is due to turn up soon to celebrate their wedding anniversary only to find that when he arrives he is in a very irritable mood and tells her that he won’t be able to stay long as he has to return to work to finish some matters. Karen’s suspicion is alerted with the arrival of Sam’s secretary Jean (Romy Silver).There are also brief appearances by a bellhop (Andrew Badger). This vignette is directed by John Grinston.

After interval, the second vignette, Visitor From Hollywood, features a meeting between a movie producer Jesse (Joseph Restubog) and an old flame Muriel (Laura Wallace). Jesse is set on a seduction whilst Muriel wants to have a brief meeting and then return home. Visitor from Hollywood is directed by  Tui Clark.

The final vignette of the night, Visitor from Forest Hills, sees a married couple, Roy (Peter Gizariotis) and Norma (Andrea Blight), being confronted by their daughter’s irrational behaviour. Mimsey (Romy Silver) has locked herself in the bathroom of Suite 719, in a state of panic, as she is due to be escorted by her parents down to the Plaza Suite’s grand ballroom to marry her beloved Borden (Andrew Badger). Ali Bendall directs.

Neil Simon makes most top ten lists for the leading American playwrights  of the 20th century. Similar to the British playwright Alan Ayckbourn and our own David Williamson, he is a master craftsman and a skilled commentator on social mores. PLAZA SUITE sits well in his large body of work. The play,  over fifty years old, is inevitably a little dated however, putting this to one side, the play still has a lot to offer.

The Genesian Theatre Company’s production serves the play well.

The heart is a lonely hunter, as American writer Carson McCullers so eloquently penned, and this theme of the vulnerability of people in relationships, is shared across the three narratives.

Elizabeth MacGregor, a veteran of over forty plays and musicals, convinces as a wife preening the suite for her husband’s arrival. Barry Nielsen, long time President of the Genesian Theatre Company, apparently to retire soon, makes a welcome appearance as her ungrateful husband.

Joseph Restubog, who is the Artistic Director of  his own company, Salon for Dramatic Arts, and Laura Wallace, making her stage lead debut, give good performances in Visitor From Hollywood.  Wallace has the more interesting role, playing a woman whose words and actions are at loggerheads.

The tone of the final vignette is one of comic hysteria. Andrea Blight, who holds a Bachelor of Performing Arts from Theatre Nepean and, with this play, makes her debut with the Genesian Theatre Company, is convincing as a fraught mother who gets  increasingly wound up by her daughter’s intransigence. Peter Gizariotis works the comedy well as the male hoping to broker a peace between his two women.

Andrew Badger, making his stage debut outside of academia, impresses in the twin roles of the Bellhop in Visitor From Mamaroneck and the husband in waiting Borden Eisler in Visitor from Forest Hills. 

As does Romy Silver, making her stage debut with the Genesian’s, similarly in multiple roles, as a secretary in A Visitor from Mamaroneck , a cynical maid, and a panicked bride in Visitor from Forest Hills. 

The staging was of quality with satisfying designs across the board; set by Tom Fahy, lighting and sound by Cian Byrne, period costumes by Susan Carveth and choreography by Ali Bendall. Theo Hatzistergos was the Assistant Director across the three plays.

Recommended, Neil Simon’s PLAZA SUITE is playing the Genesian Theatre, 420 Kent Street, City of Sydney, until the 2nd March, 2024.

Production photography by Luke Holland, LSH Media