California Suite - September 29 - October 01, 2017

Nashua Theatre Guild

 Director's Note 

Written in 1976, “California Suite” features playwright Neil Simon’s signature wit driven by his insight into the human condition. The comedy is one of Simon’s better-known plays, composed of four scenes, or vignettes, with characters staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles throughout different times of year: autumn (Visitor from New York), winter (Visitors from Philadelphia), spring (Visitors from London); and summer (Visitors from Chicago).


Some have argued that Simon’s play is dated and irrelevant for today’s audiences, and that’s understandable. The original script contains dated references, but these have been replaced with language that places it firmly in 2017: “Analyst” has been replaced with “therapist,” “john” with “bathroom,” “look it up in the phonebook” is now “Google it on your phone.” With these small updates, we found that Simon’s wordplay and themes - mainy marriage and family, and how these connections bond us, define us, and yet still often manage to make life not only difficult but hilarious - remain as fresh and as relevant as when Simon first wrote the play.


Three of the four vignettes feature women with a discernable arc within their 30 minutes: Hannah is mourning the loss of not only her daughter to her former husband Billy, but the impending passing of the man she loves back home in New York; by the end of her scene, Millie knows she needs to forgive her husband Marvin’s infidelity not only for her sake, but for the sake of her marriage and their “two beautiful children,” yet she is - and we are - unsure whether she truly can; Diana, at her lowest point, confronts her beloved husband Sidney about his sexual orientation, with the very real risk of alienating and losing him.


But the umbrella theme here is marriage, and each scene features very different marriages: Hannah and Billy discuss their former marriage, which they argue and reminisce about; Marvin and Millie, and Sidney and Diana, present loving relationships which are sorely tested, and even the Hollenders and the Franklyns present two very different kinds of marriages: Beth and Mort are so self-involved they barely demonstrate any concern when both are seriously injured, whereas Stu and Gert are protective of one another and even of their best friends - up to a point.


First and foremost, though, the play is a comedy, and comedy is not simple to stage. The trick is to make it look simple, not forced, and two of the scenes - Philadelphia and Chicago - are broad, or “low,” comedy and just plain fun. The vignettes featuring “high” comedy - New York and London - showcase more of Simon’s deft wordplay and intellectual humor, and were more challenging - but no less rewarding - to stage.


Whether low or high, this production of “California Suite” shows us that Simon’s humor still resonates over forty years later. The ten actors and I have worked hard to make “California Suite” recognizable for today’s audiences, and our sincere desire is that you find it as entertaining to watch as we had bringing it to the stage. Enjoy the show.


~ Vicky Sandin, Director of “California Suite”

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