The Group Rep introduces its new post-pandemic live-theater season with Neil Simon’s third installation to his unique “Suite” trilogy (Plaza, California, and London, to be precise). A master of humor, Simon always knew just how to tickle funny bones during his long career spanning five decades as the author of plays and films. Ranging from tender, poignant, understated humor to all-out, knee-slapping, over-the-top hilarity, Simon’s plays cover the range of entertaining merriment. And 2021 is the perfect time for a little laughter as the world slowly begins to return to “normal.” Besides, the Group Rep adheres to pandemic rules, including mandating proof of COVID vaccination, mask wearing inside the theater, and socially distanced seats.
First presented in 1994 at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, LONDON SUITE worked its way to off-Broadway in 1995 and became a television movie in 1996. LONDON SUITE is actually a set of four one-act plays about relationships which take place in a luxury London hotel. Whether the stories elicit smiles, broad grins, chuckles, or guffaws, they all succeed in offering some much-needed humor in this tense time.
“Settling Accounts” focuses on Brian Cronin (Chris Winfield), a once-successful Welsh author who comes to believe that Billy Fox (Michael Robb), his long-time accountant, stole his fortune. Under the influence of a good deal of alcohol, Brian confronts Billy at the point of a gun.
“Going Home” tells the tale of a Sharon (Janet Wood), a widowed mother, and Lauren (Joelle Arqueros), her well-meaning daughter, who pushes mom into spending her last night in London before returning home from a shopping spree on a date with a distinguished Scottish gentleman. A single, well-to-do fellow who drives a Ferrari and luxuriously wines and dines the lady – between hilarious bouts of missteps, gasps, and wheezes.
“Diana and Sidney” recounts what happens when a divorced couple reunite for an evening – with Diana (Diane Linder) still holding onto her earlier feelings of affection – while the homosexual Sidney (Doug Haverty) tries to borrow a little cash for his long-term male lover, who is dying from lung cancer.
Finally, “The Man on the Floor” shares the disasters that befall Mark (Christian Land) and Annie (Beccy Quinn) Ferris, a couple from Los Angeles who have journeyed all the way to London for Wimbledon – and manage to lose their tickets sitting right behind the royals. To make matters worse, Mark also seems to be losing his sanity – until his gyrations result in a farcical back-astrophy which soon involves his wife, Dr. McMerlin (Fox Carney), the Bellman (Sal Valetta) and Mrs. Sitgood (Sherry Michaels), the hotel concierge. And even (sort of indirectly) actor Kevin Costner.
Director Doug Engalla manages to keep the going light and the amusement genuine as the four groups of London visitors work on resolving their challenges. The cast is excellent and manage to bring their characters to life while keeping the laughter flowing. Angela M. Eads’ costumes are right on the mark, and Douglas Gabrielle’s lighting and Steve Shaw’s sound are perfect for the show.
LONDON SUITE runs through October 24, 2021, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. Saturday matinees have also been added at 1 p.m. on 9/25, 10/2, 10/9, 10/16, and 10/23/21. The Lonny Chapman Theatre is located at 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Tickets are $30 (seniors and students $25; parties of 10+ $20). For information and reservations, call 818-763-5990 or go online.