How 'Suite' Is That Set?

How 'Suite' Is That Set?

Potomac Theatre Company performs Neil Simon’s ‘Plaza Suite.’

It wasn’t easy for Mac Grant to transport New York’s famed Plaza Hotel to Potomac. That was the challenge for Grant, construction leader for the Potomac Theatre Company’s production of Neil Simon’s ‘Plaza Suite.’

The ‘Plaza Suite’ set contains new elements like suspended arches as well as traditional Hollywood-style set components. It cost a large sum of money and took hours of diligent work. "Things you get [in supply orders] aren’t always to specifications. We try to be very accurate when we pre-build things — how they fit together, how they go together. If they don’t fit together, then we have problems in the erection process," said Grant, longtime set builder for Potomac Theatre Company. "It may take hours to build correctly. And even when it’s finished we still have to worry about things like uneven stages."

It’s all come together for Potomac Theatre Company’s production, which runs through this weekend at the Bullis School’s Blair Family Center for the Performing Arts. The ‘Plaza Suite’ cast and crew include a number of longtime Potomac residents, including Grant, Tony Pisarra, Mac Grant and John Shockey. Pisarra, the son of Elie Pisarra Cain, plays Sam Nash, the workaholic husband in the opening act. Shockey and Grant built, designed, and painted the set.

THREE ACTS. THREE COUPLES. One famous New York hotel. Simon’s play, which premiered in 1968 and was made into a 1971 movie, tells the story of three distinct groups of people who book the same suite at the Plaza in 1968. The first act tells the story of a woman, her husband and his secretary. The second portrays a reunion between a married woman and an old high-school fling. The final act shows a fiancé and his parents-in-law-to-be trying to coax his fiancée out of the suite’s bathroom, where she has locked herself and refuses to come out.

"[This play is] nice because it is really three one act plays that range from the fairly dramatic to the very light and enjoyable. Neil Simon’s writing and styles are excellent. [Plaza Suite] is one of his best [plays]," Pisarra said.

The play’s characters are immediately recognizable. They are, in fact, classic Neil Simon characters — sympathetic and irritating, confusing and heroic, funny and exasperating, flawed and deserving sympathy. As the curtains close on each scene, the audience is left wondering about the outcome of the events they have just witnessed, another playwriting device that is distinctly Simon’s.

<1b>— Dasha Vinogradsky