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Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Greenbelt Arts Center Chapter Two

By • Nov 18th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Chapter Two by Neil Simon
Greenbelt Arts Center
Greenbelt Community Arts Center, Greenbelt, MD
Through December 4th
2:50 with one intermission
$15/$12 Seniors and Students
Reviewed November 13th, 2010

Chapter Two is a comedy by Neil Simon. A widower is slowly trying to get on with his life. His younger brother tries his hand at matchmaking which leads to a new relationship for George. Meanwhile Leo is enjoying a fling with a married woman who is going through a rough patch with her husband. Cover-ups are exposed and feelings come out in this classic Neil Simon story about life.

Director Sheilah Crossley-Cox kept the show’s pace even. This production by the Greenbelt Arts Center, while not hilarious, was definitely funny and enjoyable. Simon does seem to have a problem with where to end his plays. They seem to go about two scenes too long.

Zachary Brewster-Geisz played George Schneider, a novelist who has lost his wife to cancer, and is trying move on. While uptight and grieving, Zachary was always nervous, apparently feeling guilty about his wife’s death. As he got more emotional he also became more animated. Late in the play he let you feel his loss and a peek at his yet unresolved pain over the loss of his wife.

His brother, Leo, played by Bob Kleinberg, was a good counter-balance to George. Although technically married that does not seem to stop Kleinberg from “playing the field.” He had some minor line problems, which tended to slow down his pace a bit, but he and Zachary both had a comfortable chemistry and responded well to each other.

Both of the females made their characters come alive. Funniest of the two was Faye Medwick played by Ronda Ansted. Her fast talking, hyperactivity kept you laughing. Medwick had a sincere side that she would share with Leo and also her best friend, Jennie Malone played by Jenna Jones. Jones was very likeable and easily identifiable. She had a good rapport with Ansted and the two had some funny comic moments that included Jones walking in on Faye and Leo during an attempted rendezvous.

Set designer Stephen Cox made a good choice for the space by building two sets with a common half wall that allowed for both (the apartments of George and Jennie) to be used simultaneously. There were some technical glitches with the lighting in the first act. The second act was trouble free. One issue with using a split stage area was the area near the wall dividing the stage was a bit darker, making Jennie’s telephone table appear too dark. Costumer Linda Swann made good the use of the late 70’s motif by choosing the bright browns and blues, while the checkered pants are always a crowd pleaser!

Altogether, the Greenbelt Arts Center’s Chapter Two was a well paced funny show with the right hint of drama to to keep you engaged.

A Note from the Director

Besides the pleasure of Neil Simon’s brilliant comic writing, this project offered an insight into the characters of both Simon and acclaimed actress Marsha Mason. Chapter Two is based, in large part on the story of the love affair between Mr. Simon and Ms. Mason. After he cast her in his Broadway play The Good Doctor in 1973, Marsha Mason and Neil Simon (who was then a widower) fell in love and were married.

In 1977 Ms. Mason won her second Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her performance in Neil Simon’s hit film, The Goodbye Girl. And, in 1979, Mason played Jennie in Mr. Simon’s film version of the play, Chapter Two, earning a third Best Actress nomination. Although the Simon-Mason marriage may not have lasted, the creative fire which initially fueled their love affair is the true basis for the characters of Jennie and George.

Working on this production has allowed me the opportunity to exercise the imaginations of actors to realize characters which, while fundamentally derived from the playwright’s own life, are just as real to an audience which is unfamiliar with his biographical details.

Chapter Two is a hilarious comedy written from the serious perspective of a grieving widower. Its dialogue, pacing, and structure are succinct and powerful, allowing an audience to learn just enough about Jennie, Faye, George, and Leo, to compel them to HAVE to find out more. The relationship of the two brothers…. the older and younger brother…as with Lost in Yonkers and Brighton Beach Memoirs, makes Chapter Two rich with their warm humor. George and Leo in this play, Chapter Two, exist as a natural result of the child and teenage brothers whom Mr. Simon wrote in other works.

This is a chance to see for fine actors propel themselves into the vortex of the world delineated by Neil Simon…today’s most financially successful American playwright! Not an easy boast to make in this economy. I hope you enjoy walking the rocky road to romance with George Schneider as much as I have enjoyed directing this play! Sheilah Crossley-Cox

Photo Gallery

Zachary Brewster-Geisz as George and Jenna Jones as Jennie Bob Kleinberg as Leo and Zachary Brewster-Geisz as George
Zachary Brewster-Geisz as George and Jenna Jones as Jennie
Bob Kleinberg as Leo and Zachary Brewster-Geisz as George
Bob Kleinberg as Leo and Ronda Ansted as Faye
Bob Kleinberg as Leo and Ronda Ansted as Faye

Photos by Rachel Zirkin Duda.

Cast

  • George Schneider: Zachary Brewster-Geisz
  • Leo Schneider: Bob Kleinberg
  • Jennie Malone: Jenna Jones
  • Faye Medwick: Ronda Ansted

Crew

  • Director: Sheilah Crossley-Cox
  • Producer: Stephen Cox
  • Stage Manager/Asst. Director: Brett Fishburne
  • Light Design: Tom Zanner
  • Sound Design: Trix Whitehall
  • Sound Technician: Wynne Kleinberg
  • Set Design: Stephen Cox
  • Costumer: Linda Swann
  • Props: Aurenna Komisar & Chuck Bury
  • Photography: Rachel Zirkin Duda
  • Special Production Assistant: Silas Fishburne
  • Program/Poster Design: Stephen Cox & Betsy Marks Delany

Disclaimer: Greenbelt Arts Center 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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