London Suite | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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London Suite, Briar Street Theatre. The three short plays in Neil Simon's London Suite--linked by their common setting, a British hotel room--are all based on the theme of male infirmity and mortality. In "Going Home" a 60ish American widow tells her daughter about the escalating series of crises during her date with a Scotsman: they started out at a restaurant but he ended up at the hospital. "Diana and Sidney" concerns the reunion of an actress and her gay ex-husband; after beating around the bush he admits he's terminally ill, and she makes plans to take him back to America. "The Man on the Floor" is a loudmouthed tourist whose Wimbledon plans are sidetracked when his back goes out.

But Simon shies away from the implications of his theme, frittering away the scripts' potential in meandering dialogue, avoiding real conflict. The bittersweet conversation piece "Going Home" is beautifully played by Barbara Robertson under Michael Leavitt's direction--the show's saving grace is the way she probes her character's nooks and crannies--but there's no dramatic payoff. "Diana and Sidney" as played by hokey John William Cooke and miscast Deanna Dunagan comes off as a very bad imitation of very late Noel Coward, all stiff-upper-lip posturing. "The Man on the Floor" is like a TV sketch Simon might have written 40 years ago--Mark Morettini bellows in raucous Caesarian style, while Robertson bawls her way through a bad Lucille Ball slapstick routine--but Simon stops short just as things get going.

The aging writer who movingly probed his own past in Broadway Bound seems terrified to address his future; this is the limpest comedy yet in a recent line of losers. Not only is Simon relying on formula, his once-shrewd timing is unwinding. The man needs a rest.

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