Simon's `California Suite' offers 4 separate playlets

Pasadena troupe to give weekend performances beginning tomorrow

July 15, 1999|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Pasadena Theatre Company promises to brighten our summer when it presents Neil Simon's 1976 comedy hit "California Suite" beginning tomorrow.

One of America's most successful playwrights, Simon is the author of 30 plays, beginning with "Come Blow Your Horn" in 1961.

Before writing plays, Simon was making us laugh as a successful television comedy writer. He once had four plays running simultaneously on Broadway, a record not likely to be broken soon. He is a shrewd chronicler of the American scene who can make us laugh at our foibles. Simon's later works have also revealed sensitivity in portraying complex human relationships.

"California Suite" consists of four playlets, a structure that allows him the freedom to offer a diverse collection of experiences without the structural constraints imposed by the more conventional three-act format.

The first playlet, "Visitors from London," has been described as one of Simon's more mature and sensitive offerings, and the author himself rates it as among his best writing in short form.

In contrast, "Visitors from Chicago" is broadly comic, filled with quick laughs. Here we find two couples who thought they were friends before sharing a long vacation together in intimate surroundings.

"Visitor from New York" is more classic Simon, dealing with the author's home turf in the Big Apple. One character is from New York and one from Los Angeles. Simon draws on his experience as a theater playwright and as a television and film writer.

"Visitor from Philadelphia" is a situation comedy, where a man wakes up to find a drunken woman in his bed and his wife on her way up to the room.

As in Simon's 1968 classic "Plaza Suite," all the action takes place in a single hotel suite, here in the storied Beverly Hills Hotel of movie fame. The time period is a single weekend before the Academy awards are presented. The four-part story line runs the gamut from touching introspection to slapstick.

Pasadena's production is directed by John Strawbridge, who admires Simon for his ability to deal with human relationships. The cast includes Frank Antonio as Mort; Melissa Blue as Beth; Sharon Boyle as Gert; Victor Carr as Sidney; Carolyn Craighead as Hannah; Julie DiCarlo as Millie; Elizabeth Lasner as Diana; Craig Miller as Stu; Stephanie Nevin as Bunny; Chuck Richards as Marvin; and Keith Thompson as Billy.

Pasadena Theatre Company will perform "California Suite" at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays this month. All performances will be in Anne Arundel Community College's Humanities Recital Hall. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for seniors and students. This play is not recommended for children age 12 and younger; parental discretion is advised. Information and tickets: 410-969-1801.

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