Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick Sparkle in ‘Plaza Suite’ on Broadway

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The beautifully renovated Hudson Theater on Broadway is that rare performance space where a glass of champagne is served in a glass flute. No plastic cups here. It’s the perfect prop, if not a pleasant echo, of what’s currently on stage – Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick in a bubbly, seductive cover by Neil Simon Square Suite (until June 26). Directed by John Benjamin Hickey, it finally opens tonight after a long, long COVID-related delay.

At a recent performance the critic attended, the two stars didn’t receive the first round of applause. This was booked for the reveal of the luxurious, beautifully lit 1960s suite (by Brian MacDevitt) of the Plaza Hotel itself. Ahead of us, designed by John Lee Beatty, is the infamous Suite 719, site of the three sketches that make up the show, with glimpses of the New York skyline behind the windows. Furnishings are mostly, appropriately, champagne-colored.

The spark is also due to the two protagonists – famous New Yorkers themselves, married in real life, and Parker, the star / executive producer of sex and the city and And just like thatwhich presents its own version of a richly bubbly New York City, and where relationships and their discontents also take center stage.

Neither Parker nor Broderick play lazily at their own couple or their own fame. Sarah Jessica Parker isn’t directly channeling Carrie Bradshaw in Square Suite, but neither does she completely keep her most famous alter ego at bay. How could she, even if she does everything she can to look very different to him, and is as well disguised as possible by Tom Watson’s wigs, making her by turns frumpy and glam-groovy? Indeed, the strange echo here and there – and all sex and the city the inescapable knowledge of the character by fans – are dependent on the worldwide familiarity which drives ticket sales.

Hickey and his performers make each sketch the right kind of irresistible – the laughs flow easily, the sighs of recognition too, and even the occasional thump of shock and sadness. Simon’s dialogue – by turns smart, caustic, sweet, funny, wacky and sharp – focuses on three sets of couples at very different stages of relationships: first Karen and Sam Nash in “Visitor from Mamaroneck”; then Muriel Tate and Jesse Kiplinger in “Visitor from Hollywood”; and finally, Norma and Roy Hubley in “Visitor from Forest Hills”.

They are not formally linked and the sketches seem distinct. However, the meaning of love and commitment, and what time does to each, hovers above each. It’s no surprise that Plaza Suite first opened on Broadway on Valentine’s Day 1968, directed by Mike Nichols – starring George C. Scott and Maureen Stapleton in the lead roles (read how it was all stirred up in the excellent biography of Mark Harris, Mike Nichols: A Life).

Sarah Jessica Parker and Mathew Broderick.

Joan Marcus

The three women in the Three Pieces are not Carrie Bradshaw, even though they share some of her disappointments, impatience, betrayals and disappointments with the heterosexual male of the species. Yet here we are in a hotel room; and every sex and the city fan knows that Carrie hasn’t had a good time in hotel rooms, whether she was mistaken for a prostitute while sleeping with Big (Chris Noth) behind Natasha’s (Bridget Moynahan) back, or when – in the show’s finale – she was in the finest of all Paris, all dressed up with nowhere to go, and again with the wrong man in Aleksandr Petrovsky (Mikhail Baryshnikov).

There too, the suite 719 of the Plaza turns out to be the pet peeve of all its characters. Alongside Parker and Broderick are Cesar J. Rosado (replacing Eric Wiegand), Molly Ranson and Danny Bolero, playing what might be a handful of thankless roles, but who fill these characters with expertly played individual notes, given that time and the words on the page are against them.

“The first skit is a deceptive springboard because it turns out to be the most dramatic and profound; the evening is more descending than ascending in terms of theatricality.”

The first skit is a deceptive springboard because it turns out to be the most dramatic and profound; the evening is more descending than ascending in terms of theatricality. Karen and Sam have been married for over twenty years and are celebrating an anniversary. Except they don’t party. She wants him, but he’s in a complaining and irritated mood because of office deadlines. So all of his attempts to compose romance, memories and sense of occasion are grumpily deflated by him – and Sam is annoying acid, and we cheer heartily when Karen returns her jabs with precision and ferocity.

We see how a marriage in general negligence can quickly deteriorate to the raw shell that it has actually been, albeit hidden, for some time – with the added bang of adultery. It’s so well written and performed that you can’t wait to find out for the rest of the night what happened next to them both.

After that, Square Suite becomes a more broadly comedic proposition; the second piece is, down to Broderick’s loud plaid pants and Parker’s Pucci-ish mini-dress (the over-point suits are by Jane Greenwood), a very swinging ’60s set-up. Jesse, the Hollywood producer, reconnects with school crush Muriel from their New Jersey town.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Mathew Broderick.

Joan Marcus

They want different things from each other; she wants to choke on as many vodka puns as she can and hear stories about glamor and celebrity so far from coming home to make sure dinner is on the table. He sincerely wonders if they still have enough chemistry, aided by those darts, to have sex. Either way, Muriel doesn’t want it – or could she, could she, if she wants to extend her Hollywood dream?

The third piece is the dumbest of them all. It’s a pure prank, with a very delayed and slightly bleak payoff, with Mimsey hiding behind a bathroom door as parents Norma and Roy try to drag her out and keep their private matters out of the way. wedding that Mimsey should attend, like the bride, below. Here, Parker takes a light back seat as Broderick whips himself into such a frenzy he finds himself outside as a thunderstorm rumbles, teetering along the hotel’s outer ledge to get to the bathroom. and his sulky daughter.

“Parker is adept at handling the hilarity – hobbling, like Karen, on a shoe – then, moments later, utterly piercing as she realizes the devastation of her marriage.”

Until the third skit, the energy and verve come from Parker. Broderick, even as a groovy Hollywood producer, has a lugubrity that can make you strain to hear what he’s saying. He looks highlighted, while Parker’s innate brio connects directly with the audience. Then, in the third skit, he comes to life, his anger becoming incandescent as Mimsey remains stubbornly hidden.

In terms of dramaturgy, Square Suite is curious: it begins as a firecracker with unexpected depth, and ends in the throes of a pleasantly silly crisis. The success of such a backwards production relies on its actors, who are tasked with steering this delicate trajectory – an evening of waning impact and comedy that widens, even borders on annoyance, as concern sparked by Mimsey’s self-incarceration in the bathroom stretches out again and again.

Parker, Broderick and their three other actors glimpsed briefly excellent, judging with precision and precision repartee, tempo, rhythm and tone. Parker is adept at handling the hilarity – hobbling, like Karen, on a shoe – then, moments later, utterly piercing as she realizes the devastation of her marriage. The champagne may have been flat for a long time, but it still sparkles.

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