Plaza Suite Charms Audiences

333Newport Playhouse has opened their season this year with Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite.  This charming show is a bit different from the farces I’ve grown accustomed to seeing at the Playhouse, but the switch is welcome as they put on  a solidly funny show.

Plaza Suite is a bit of a switch for Simon as the show comprises three vignettes, all with the same setting and dealing with different matters of the heart. The first, starring Sandra Nicastro as Karen Nash and Rick Bagley as Sam Nash, is about a couple on two different wavelengths during their anniversary. Olivia Sahlin drops in for a bit as Jean McCormack, and Jeff Blanchette is hilarious as the bellboy. During Act One, where we see a couple about to celebrate their wedding anniversary I could hear other patrons whisper, “This is us!”

My favorite part of this show is the second scene, and not because of what Simon wrote, but because of the two performers onstage. Jesse Kiplinger (Philip D. Clarke) is a fed-up producer, pining for the simpler years with his former girlfriend Muriel Tte (Olivia M. Sahlin). Their chemistry onstage was palpable. Clarke is a force onstage; there’s no other way to describe how he took over that theater. And no one could have played this role better than Sahlin. She hit every nuance with skilled expertise. Although I enjoyed the entire evening, this was by far my favorite piece, and would love to see these two team up in something a little meatier — it would be theater magic!

The last vignette is a bride who has locked herself in the bathroom. Her dad, played by Rick Bagley, really shone in this one, opposite once again Sandra Nicastro. After over two decades with the Playhouse, it is safe to say that Nicastro and Bagley are Playhouse royalty. They know how to play the crowds for the show, and at the after show cabaret, they had the audience in stitches! And I have to also mention Jeff Blanchette’s performance. Blanchette was fantastic in everything. He didn’t have a lot of stage time, which is a shame, as his dry delivery was perfect for the evening.

At the helm of this talented cast is Tony Annicone, another fixture not only in Newport, but let’s face it, in Rhode Island.  This is a perfect show for Annicone to direct, and he does a terrific job with it. The Annicone stamp is firmly in place with some of the physical antics on stage, and makes the play funnier than written. Yes, there is some dated, sexist language. But take it for what it’s worth; it’s a play from the ’60s — the language needs to be dated. We can’t ignore the attitudes of the past if we expect to grow from them.  

And as for the food; I’m Italian and we always seem to cook a little too much for company. That’s what I think of when I visit their buffet … so much delicious food. The servers are always lovely, and it’s a nice added bonus to have your drink waiting for you after the play. (You have to stay for the cabaret.  After all you made the trek over the bridge, make it count!)

Contact the theater for your tickets today! You will be entertained and you’ll laugh — and we could all use a good laugh!

Plaza Suite runs until October 9.  Call the box office for tickets at 401-848-7259  or visit their website at

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