The Column Online



by Neil Simon

ONSTAGE in Bedford

Director - Ben Phillips
Stage Manager – Nicole Lugar
Set Design - Michael B. Winters and Charlotte Newman
Lighting Design - Geneva McHenry
Sound Design - Kevin Brazil
Costume Design – Michael Kreitzinger and Erica Maroney
Props Design – Nicole Lugar and Michael B. Winters
Artistic Director - Michael B. Winters

Sam Nash - Jeff Burleson
Karen Nash - Erica Maroney
Bellhop, Jesse Kiplinger, Borden Eisler - Brandon Jackson
Jean McCormack, Muriel Tate, Mimsey Hubley - Madyson Greenwood
Roy Hubley - Robert Banks
Norma Hubley - Susan Dergoul

Reviewed Performance: 5/21/2017

Reviewed by Darlene Singleton, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

My very first introduction into live theater was a role in a Neil Simon inspired production and I have loved directing, performing in, or watching plays by Mr. Simon ever since. I was excited to see the ONSTAGE IN BEDFORD interpretation of a script I read, and loved, years ago. A New York hotel room is the setting for three stories of various degrees of marriage and romance in Mr. Simon's PLAZA SUITE. Simon is well-known for his touching stories and whacky characters and his 1968 PLAZA SUITE is no exception.

Director Ben Phillips brings both heart-tugs and slapstick to the stage as the three separate stories unfold in Suite 719, where over a period of time the long-time married couple Karen Nash (Erica Maroney) and Sam Nash (Jeff Burleson) are teetering on the edge of divorce; a thrice-married Hollywood producer, Jesse Kiplinger (Brandon Jackson) attempts to seduce his old flame, Muriel Tate (Madyson Greenwood) who is now a suburban housewife; and parents Roy Hubley (Robert Banks) and Norma Hubley (Susan Dergoul) comically try to talk their daughter into getting married.

The pre-show music selection by Kevin Brazil was an added enhancement while browsing my playbill and effortlessly set the tone for the NYC location.

In the first vignette, suburban New Yorkers Sam and Karen Nash are spending the night in the hotel as their house is being painted, but more importantly it is their twenty-something wedding anniversary, and Karen has booked the same room, Suite 719, where they spent their honeymoon. Karen Nash is perfectly played by Erica Maroney and she absolutely owns the stage as she brings boundless energy and gentle dignity in her portrayal of a wife hoping to recreate a surge of romance in her marriage, even though deep down she knows her attempt may be in vain. Jeff Burleson plays the husband Sam, who is in no mood for champagne or romance. He arrives distracted and focused on his work and, more importantly, his middle age status. The butler, played by Brandon Jackson, brings a bit of fun to the stage as he works to support Mrs. Nash in her attempt to revive her marriage and Sam’s hard working secretary, played by Madyson Greenwood, obviously does more than scheduling meetings or fetching coffee.

In vignette two, a womanizing Hollywood movie producer Jesse Kiplinger, played by Brandon Jackson, has a few hours free to play-around during his whirlwind stay in New York so he contacts his old flame from Tenafly, New Jersey - the married Muriel Tate, played by Madyson Greenwood. They have not seen each other in 15 years and as they reunite, Muriel realizes what Jesse really wants and continuously second guesses herself in whether she should stay or leave. Ms. Greenwood brings wonderful comedic timing to the stage in her role as the nervously excited house-wife Muriel, on the verge of her first affair. During her performance, I couldn’t help to think how she would be a perfect Adelaide in Guys and Dolls. Kudos to Ms. Greenwood – she was a joy to watch onstage. Brandon Jackson as the Hollywood producer is very believable as he transitions flawlessly from being an old friend glad to see his old girlfriend, to the sleazy casting-couch producer about to lure his prey. Mr. Jackson has a wonderful ability to allow the audience to know what is on his mind with a subtle roll of his eyes or the smirk on his lips.

And in the final vignette, there are a roomful of people at the hotel for the Eisler-Hubley wedding and reception. The event is being paid for by Mimsey's penny-pinching father, Roy Hubley played by Robert Banks. What the wedding guests don’t know is that Mimsey, played by Madyson Greenwood, has locked herself in the bathroom of Suite 719, and is not saying a word to either her father or mother, Norma Hubley (played by Susan Dergoul), as to the reason for her cold feet. The performances by Robert Banks and Susan Dergoul are wonderfully over-the-top as parents facing an impending wedding with a distraught daughter locked in the bathroom. Dergoul’s jittery Norma Hubley makes a perfect contrast to Banks’ thundering Roy Hubley. Laughs ensue as they peek in on their daughter through the bathroom door keyhole and try to coerce the unseen Mimsey out. The chemistry between Dergoul and Banks is wonderful to watch and their timing and talent are comparable to the greatness of George Burns and Gracie Allen, or Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman, or even Archie and Edith. This fast-paced scene had great Laugh Out Loud moments that included toilet-paper messages from under the bathroom door and the man-on-the-ledge teetering high above Central Park.

The hotel setting from Michael B. Winters and Charlotte Newman, consisted of a sitting room and bedroom and was a beautiful background for the actors to shine. The NYC skyline upstage was visually appealing throughout each scene – I do wish there had been a water tower perched atop a building or two though. Plus, I personally would have liked to see a few changes in the room accessories (pillows, bedspread, coffee table items) between each scene. A few of the 1968-era references are a bit outdated (i.e., charge-plate) and may be lost on some audience members - I had to pause a second to figure out what they meant, but I love watching a Neil Simon story onstage, and this production was well worth my drive to Bedford. I laughed. The audience laughed. And, best of all, you will too.

821 Forest Ridge Dr., Bedford, TX 76021
Phone: (817) 354-6444
Through May 28
For ticket info, dates, show times, etc.: