Mountain Playhouse picks its 'Suites'


July 5, 2013

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Neil Simon's Comic SuitesA bit of creative brainstorming by the producer of a local professional theater has resulted in a new play making its world debut this month at the Mountain Playhouse in Jennerstown. The production, “Neil Simon's Comic Suites,” is composed of humorous scenes selected from the famous playwright's “Suite” plays, all of which take place in hotel rooms.


“I went through the three plays of Simon's ‘Suite' series and picked out the four funniest scenes,” says Teresa Marafino, Mountain Playhouse executive producer. Each scene is an independent “playlet” and has its own title.


In the first scene, “The Visitor From Forest Hills,” a bride locks herself in the bathroom of her hotel suite on her wedding day and refuses to come out. As the wedding guests wait, her parents try to convince her to leave the bathroom and attend her own wedding.


Next is “The Man on the Floor,” in which a New York couple visits London to see Wimbledon, but the wife loses the tickets, the husband's back gives out, and they are asked to change rooms because they have been inadvertently given a suite reserved for Kevin Costner.


In the third scene, “The Visitor From Philadelphia,” a straitlaced businessman awakens in his hotel room to find out two things: he's sharing his bed with a passed-out prostitute, and his wife is on her way up to the room.


The final scene, “The Visitors From Chicago,” unfolds as a longtime friendship between two well-to-do couples begins to fall apart after one of the wives is injured in a mixed-doubles tennis match and her husband accuses the other man of injuring her on purpose.


With the exception of being booked into a famous actor's hotel suite, the misadventures happening on stage will feel comically familiar to many audience members.


“We've all had to go to hotels,” says director Guy Stroman. “Whether it's the business trip where everything goes wrong or a vacation with friends that goes on too long, we can all identify with these situations.”


The enduring popularity of Simon's plays lies in creating characters that audiences can relate to.


“Neil Simon is one of the American iconic geniuses of comedy,” Stroman says. “His characters are so human, so identifiable, so recognizable. They all have a deeper reality to them. It's the kind of heightened reality that makes us laugh because they're all us.”


The ensemble cast includes Joe Joyce, Martin Landry, John Little, Celeste Mancinelli, Lisa Riegel and Caroline Shannon.


“We've got six solidly funny people that are consummate professionals. It's going to be a treat,” Marafino says.


The theater is offering two special events during the show's run. After the July 9 opening-night performance, the audience will be invited to a complimentary post-show party with the actors. On July 14, the theater will host an ice-cream fundraiser with a banana-split bar. The event is scheduled for 1 p.m., to wrap up in time for the 3 p.m. matinee.


Cynthia Bombach Helzel is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.