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Rockville Little Theatre California Suite

By • Oct 7th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
California Suite by Neil Simon
Rockville Little Theatre
F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre, Rockville, MD
Through October 10th
2:25 with one intermission
$16/$14 Seniors nad Students
Reviewed October 3rd, 2010

California Suite is play by Neil Simon. It is actually a series of five vignettes of four situations all located in one hotel suite in Southern California. Each vignette other than the two with Sidney and Diana Nichols stands alone, and has no bearing on the other scenes.

The show’s pacing was incredibly slow. The two scenes of the first act were directed by Patrick Miller, and the three scenes in the second act were directed by Laurie T. Freed. The actors seem to have been told, “Say your line, wait three seconds, then reply.” With a comedy the lines need to come faster and with feeling.

In the first scene, formerly married couple Hannah Warren (Leta Hall) and William Warren (Ken Kemp) barely showed a spark between them. Yes, they were a divorced couple, but that should make for more of a reaction between the two of them as they zinged and one-upped one another. The pair did a lot of either standing or sitting with not much in between. I was expecting to see them sparring with each other through their movements around the hotel room to match their verbal sparring.

The second scene allowed for some humorous physical comedy between Marvin Michaels (Jeff McDermont) and Bunny (Mandy Keating). Bunny is a prostitute asleep in Marvin’s bed. Unfortunately for him, his wife Millie (Alyssa Sanders) is on her way to the hotel room. McDermott was utterly believable as the desperate husband trying to hide his indiscretion. When Bunny was discovered in the bed by Millie, Sanders handled the revelation admirably as she shifted emotions from concern to anger. Again, in the early parts of the scene, the staging for Marvin and Mille was awkward and did not allow for enough feeling or chemistry to be shared between the couple.

Diana Nichols (Susan Geisel) as the actress nominated for an Academy Award and her husband Sidney (John Van Eck) were in the hotel for the Academy Awards. Their relationship was strained by Sidney’s other relationships. Van Eck’s bemused expression worked well, but at times he was a bit too smug. They appeared distant, but it came across as uncomfortable.

The final scene was two couples vacationing together for a long time. Beth Hollender (Allison Hawley) has just injured her ankle playing tennis with her husband Mort (Skylar Sanders). Their opponents were the couple they are vacationing with, Stu and Gert Franklin (David Dieudonne and Jung Weil). Each person is getting more and more stressed over the long-term effects of the vacation. Small annoyances are growing daily, and it’s obvious that each couple needs a vacation from their vacation. This scene is flat out slapstick, as each person screams, hits, bites, and otherwise attacks one another. Some of the injuries they inflicted on one another weren’t consistent throughout the scene, such as the ankle that Beth hurt playing tennis at times was able to allow her to sit upright on the bed. At times the punches between Mort and Stu were slower than they should be, as if they were still thinking too much about how to “hit” each other. The scene was funny though, but with a bit more work on the fight choeography could have been hilarious.

The actors weren’t consistent between scenes when using the telephone. Some actors had to press “0” to reach the hotel switchboard, others simply picked up the phone and began to speak.

Anna Britton’s set did not seem lavish enough. As the set was the only character in each scene, it really needed to pop. Also, with the sitting room along the upstage half of the stage, those scenes forced the actors further away from the audience, which made it more difficult to feel like we were in the room with the couple. Another distraction was the door to the hallway that kept coming open during the performance. When that happened you kept expecting someone to be coming in, such as room service with their orders.

This was a funny show, but most of the laughter was due to Neil Simon’s writing. Pacing issues were the most serious problem, reducing the humor of the play.

Photo Gallery

Photos by Dean Evangelista.

Cast

  • Hannah Warren: Leta Hall
  • William Warren: Ken Kemp
  • Marvin Michaels: Jeff McDermont
  • Bunny: Mandy Keating
  • Millie Michaels: Alyssa Sanders
  • Sidney Nichols: John Van Eck
  • Diana Nichols: Susan Geisel
  • Mort Holender: Skylar Sanders
  • Beth Hollender: Allison Hawley
  • Stu Franklyn: David Dieudonne
  • Gert Franklyn: Jung Weil

Crew

  • Producer: Peter Caress, Elaine Hoover
  • Director, Act I: Patrick Miller
  • Director, Act II: Laurie T. Freed
  • Stage Manager: Diane Pick
  • Assistant Director: Peter Caress, Mandy Keating
  • Set Design: Anna Britton
  • Master Carpenter: Eric Henry
  • Construction and Painting Crew: Frank Adler, Anna Britton, Lois Britton, Peter Caress, Anne Cary, Brian Dettling, Tony Dwyer, Michael, Gilmore, David Kaysen, Emma Khasin, William Kolodrubetz, Justin Kroener, David Levin, Ramin Moghaddam, Menen Springer
  • Set Dressing, Properties: Sonya Okin
  • Lighting Design: Jim Robertson
  • Lighting Execution: Peter Cress, Anne Cary
  • Sound Execution: Mike Taylor, Rockville City Staff
  • Costumes: Susan Shulman and Cast
  • Hair/Makeup: Cast
  • Dialect Coach: Joan Roseboom
  • Program Design: Annette Kalicki
  • Publicity: Ken Kemp
  • Photographer: Dean Evangelista
  • Stage Crew: Mary Louise Bishop, Kenn Kupchillat, Jackie Sternberg
  • Audition Hosts: Mary Louise Bishop, David Levin
  • House Manager: David Levin, Fran Levin
  • Concession Coordinator: Fran Levin

Disclaimer: Rockville Little Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

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