TEMPLE TERRACE – Playwright Neil Simon’s noted works are more often than not written about characters with serious concerns.
But humor is also purposely entwined in his scenarios of sadness and pain.
“Plaza Suite,” Simon’s highly acclaimed three-act production involving three separate sets of actors, is no exception.
In fact, those who attend Masque Community Theatre’s presentation of Simon’s play – which opens on Friday. Oct. 4, and runs weekends through Oct. 20 at the Omar K. Lightfoot Center, 10910 N. 56th St. – could easily find themselves laughing in the aisles.
“It’s classic Simon,” said director Richard Coppinger, a resident of East Tampa who’s been associated with Masque for close to 20 years, both as an actor and director.
“It deals with married couples and relationship and that’s what he does really well,” Coppinger said.
It is set in Suite 719 of New York City’s Plaza Hotel, where in the first act longtime married couple Sam and Karen Nash revisit their honeymoon haven in an attempt to rekindle the original bliss of matrimony.
Well-seasoned Masque performer Ron Pandolfo of Brandon is cast as Sam Nash during the first two weeks of production, followed by Coppinger, who will take over due to Pandolfo’s pre-arranged vacation plans.
Plant City resident Susan Donnelly will portray Karen Nash in her first Masque role.
“Karen is really a devoted wife and loves her husband deeply, but she realizes what she is up against because her husband is having an affair,” Donnelly said.
Pandolfo said while he’s very much enjoying his role, his character’s flippant attitude toward infidelity is the total opposite from his own.
“Everyone will hate me (Sam) by the end,” Pandolfo said.
The second act centers on movie producer Jesse Kiplinger, portrayed by Dan Coppinger, and actor Gina Giordano cast as his old flame Muriel Tate, a suburban housewife.
They, too, come together in the hotel suite for what Muriel envisions will be just a platonic renewal of their friendship. Jesse, on the other hand, has other plans.
“My character, Muriel, is really fun. She kind of likes testing the waters,” said Giordano of Brandon, who after appearing in a Masque performance earlier this year is returning for the second time.
Palmetto resident Dan Coppinger, the younger brother of the play’s director who has acted since he was 10, describes his character as a guy who likes “living in the moment.”
“I’m not sure how sincere he is in developing a relationship. He’s more interested in the afternoon,” he said.
The final act features Mary Kay Cyrus of Carrollwood as Norma Hubley and Thomas Pahl of New Tampa playing the role of Norma’s husband, Roy Hubley.
Their daughter Mimsey, portrayed by Elizabeth Dean, has joined them in Suite 719 in preparation for her wedding day. The problem is she’s locked herself in the bathroom, refusing to heed her parents’ desperate attempts to convince her to join the rest of the wedding party and guests awaiting her downstairs.
“She (Norma) likes to think she is friends with her daughter but she has some issues. And she’s not very good at problem solving,” said Cyrus, who auditioned for her first-ever role with Masque because of her high regard for the work of both Simon and Richard Coppinger, whom she has seen as an actor and director in other plays.
And while Pahl in not new to Masque, he’s returned following a 10-year hiatus. His primary reason for auditioning was also because it’s a Simon-crafted play.
“My character is a very successful businessman but he has no control over his daughter,” Pahl said. “He is trying to handle this like a work-related problem that he can solve. But this one he can’t.”
Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees are at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $14 for adults; $12 for seniors 60 and older, students and military personnel; and $10 for children younger than 12. Tickets are available at www.masquetheatre.net or by calling (813) 983-1710. They may also be purchased at the door.
Attendees who bring non-perishable food items that in turn will be donated to Metropolitan Ministries for its Thanksgiving Box of Hope drive are entitled to a free beverage at the concession stand.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at [email protected]