Simple Simon

California Suite isn't Neil Simon's best, but Richardson Theatre Centre could have done worse

These hotel guests are Oscar-nominated British actress Diana Nichols and her bisexual, antiques-dealing husband, Sidney. The scene shows them dressing for the Oscars, Diana tossing back tumblers of gin to quell her angst about being nominated against Meryl Streep and "the one with the big boobs." Sidney does his best to calm her, but everything seems to go wrong. Even Diana's green velvet evening gown has an upsetting flaw--a rather large hump on one shoulder that she thinks makes her look like Richard III.

We take up the couple again in their post-Oscars return to the hotel. Diana is disappointed and drunk, having pulled an embarrassing Courtney Love-esque scene at the Governors' Ball. She disintegrates into an unhappy diatribe about her lousy career, unsatisfying marriage and lost looks.

The repartee flies fast and furiously between Diana and Sidney. As details of their rather special relationship are revealed, the scene shifts into a more somber mood. Not only has Diana not come home with the little bald statue, she's going back home to London with a little bald man who'd rather be married to Rupert Everett.

Simon is a genius at two-character scenes, particularly those involving spouses caught in highly charged dilemmas.
Simon is a genius at two-character scenes, particularly those involving spouses caught in highly charged dilemmas.


Through May 1; 972-699-1130
Richardson Theatre Centre

These may be over-the-top characters, but the dialogue of "The Visitors From London" rings true. Neil Simon knows these people all right. He's summed up their narcissistic insecurities perfectly. And actors Mary Lyons and Doug Fowler, while not believably British, carry themselves with an aristocratic air and serve the script admirably.

Scene 4, "The Visitors From Chicago," is the weakest entry in this quartet. This one finds two couples, Mort and his wife, Beth, and Stu and wife Gert, winding up a long vacation together. A little too long, it turns out. Stu is fed up with Mort calling all the shots on their tour of the West Coast. "I had a better vacation when I had my hernia operation," Stu barks.

The scene erupts into a clumsy, madcap duel between the two men, who circle each other like Lacoste-clad sumo wrestlers. They fence with tennis rackets and bite each other's ankles.

It's pretty silly and only a little bit funny. The actors in Richardson know what they're doing, though. Donna Fotschky is awfully good as Beth, who hobbles around on a busted ankle, and Michael Murray, as her hubby, Mort, is a blustery gas bag with a heart of gold. Charles A. Alexander is terrific as beleaguered Stu, who just can't stomach the endless Japanese restaurants on Mort's rigid itinerary. Playing Stu's bubbly wife, Gert, is Lise Alexander. Yep, the actors are married in real life. Good casting.

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