Shawnee State University opened its annual romantic comedy in honor of Valentine’s Day Thursday night, with a dinner theatre showing of the Neil Simon classic, “Plaza Suite.”
The show is a three-act play with completely unrelated storylines, only connected by suite 719, which appears in each scene. It is in this suite that you will find new love, old love and maybe something a little more complicated, as the Shawnee State Theatre Department takes you back to Valentine’s Day, 1968.
“I think that with the way the show ends, I won’t say it is an upbeat ending, but I will say it’s a funny ending, I think people will go out laughing and feeling good,” Director Mary Baughman said. “We chose the show because of its theme of relationships and marriage in various states of decay and hell. Even though they’re fragile, there’s hope, and I think that made the show appropriate for Valentine’s Day.”
Kate Stuard, a transfer student at Shawnee State University, is playing a sizable role in the third act of “Plaza Suite.” Stuard has been doing theatre for a while and is excited to bring an outrageous stereotype to the stage with this production.
“Norma Hubley is a typical Jewish-American mother in the 1960s, and she’s very spacey and very frantic at this moment in the show. She is trying to get her daughter to come out from the bathroom to be married. Norma ends up calling her husband for help and during this they are working out 30 years of marriage and how they function as a family, while trying to get their daughter out in a moment of crisis,” Stuard said.
Stuard categorizes herself as a character actress for the typical comedic relief roles in a show, and the prospect of playing a role that required research and putting a lot of energy into acting out appealed to her.
“It’s a really fun character to do. It is kind of crazy to in cooperate a religion into a role, ya’ know?” Stuard said. “And to include the typically stereotypes to that character. I’m loud and obnoxious and a mother! It’s been really fun researching this avenue that I hadn’t had to as an actress before.”
CJ McCormick, a junior at Shawnee State University, is playing a character a little foreign to him as well. McCormick will be playing a ruthless business tycoon that isn’t happy with his marriage and ends up taking it out on his wife.
“My character is getting up there in age and doesn’t like it,” McCormick said. ” He is trying to stay in shape and continue to look good, and just doesn’t want to get older. His wife, however, is depressed and kinda just lets herself go a bit, which makes him kinda angry and cranky all of the time. My character ends up having an affair with his secretary at the office and his wife eventually finds out, which leads to even more tension.”
McCormick has been acting for three years and has played a several parts at Shawnee State University. This is the first time he has had to play a character as mean as Sam Nash.
“I’ve never played a character that is this mean, which is different, because it is very unlike me. So it is a little bit challenging, but it is acting, so it isn’t too complicated. It is a lot of fun getting to play a character so mean though.”
McCormick has been in two shows written by Neil Simon and enjoys the typical Simon formula. He is confident that people will leave the theatre feeling good and refreshed by the time “Plaza Suite” is over.
“I like Neil Simon. He is a lot of fun and his shows are classic, so people tend to know them. The thing about Neil Simon is that he is a feel good guy, you’ll leave the show feeling good after it is all said and done,” McCormick said. “I think people will enjoy the show. It’s got romance, it’s got conflict, it’s got good resolution all around. It will leave you feeling good.”
“Plaza Suite” will run in the Kahl Theatre in the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts on Feb 15, 16, 21, 22, and 23 at 7:30 p.m. General Admission is $10 and student admission is $3. The Vern Riffe Box Office can be contacted at 740-351-6000.