Tuesday, October 10, 2017

reviews - CHAPTER TWO - Arizona Theatre Company

Blair Baker and David Mason
photo by Tim Fuller
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through October 22nd.

"...Neil Simon's...semi-autobiographical Chapter Two follows the romance between a widower and a divorcée. Simon based the widower on himself and the recently divorced woman on Marsha Mason, his second wife. Arizona Theatre Company presents a slightly updated version of Simon's 1977 comical drama and is fortunate to have Mason, who received an Oscar nomination for her performance of the divorcee in the 1979 film version of the play, directing this beautifully acted and staged production....Mason clearly knows the play intimately and her in-depth knowledge of the piece and its characters, and her ability to have the actors achieve a perfect delivery of the rhythm of Simon's well-crafted dialogue show in her skillful direction. The four characters all have emotional wounds and Mason's talented cast expertly manage to portray the sadness beneath their pains but also make sure the many humorous moments in the script shine. Simon's original script has been slightly updated to include a few modern references like cell phones and DVR usage, though they don't detract or add much to the already well written script. David Mason is superb as George Schneider...carefully thought out line delivery and stage presence perfectly embody this man who is still grieving, suffering, confused, and uncertain that he may be moving on too fast. Blair Baker is just as good as Jennie,...When the patience and tolerance Jennie has for George is tested due to his faithful devotion to his deceased wife, Baker's delivery of the monologue that details the courage and loyalty Jennie has for him and the limits of her patience is powerful and raw....In smaller parts, Ben Huber is good as George's meddling brother Leo, and Diana Pappas adds plenty of humor as Jennie's friend Faye....Lauren Helpern's beautiful scenic design presents two distinct and detailed apartment settings for George and Jennie that complement each other and seamlessly occupy the large Herberger Theater stage. ...Chapter Two expertly shows how the death of a spouse is a difficult and complex situation filled with emotional pain and suffering but also humor. Arizona Theatre Company's production has an excellent cast and confident direction that beautifully portray an intricate romance that grows and evolves based on the fact that the characters realize that in order to get to the present you have to get through the past first.. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"...Neil Simon’s comedy-drama, Chapter Two premiered in 1977 but the new Arizona Theatre Company production is not a seventies throwback...In George Schneider’s case, the tragedy is the loss of his first wife, and he’s not coping well. George (David Mason) is a New York writer. ...His well-meaning brother Leo (Ben Huber) is trying to help by pushing dates with women and getting George to answer or make some calls...recently divorced Jennie Malone (Blair Baker)...also single, but she’s handling things better than George....But there’s a problem. After a European trip intended to help him escape the memory of his departed wife, George may be wheeling the one suitcase back from the airport, but he’s carrying an awful lot of left-over baggage besides the single wheelie....Simon....drew on his second marriage to Marsha Mason for inspiration to Chapter Two...which is why the pain of loss and the sadness that follows feels so effectively real when seen through the prism of a writer who has truly experienced it...Mason...has returned to ATC to direct this new production, and if there’s anyone with the experience and personal insight to flesh out Simon’s humor in the all-too real drama and have it done right, it has to be Marsha Mason. The end result from the casting, the set design, and the use of Steely Dan’s Do It Again is undeniably first class....." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"Neil Simon’s semi-autobiographical “Chapter Two,”...was a more personal kind of storytelling inspired by his second wife, actress Marsha Mason. Mason, a four-time Oscar nominee who starred in the movie adaptation of the play, is revisiting the material as director of Arizona Theatre Company’s season-opening production. The show offers plenty of laughs, some touching moments, and the kind of top-notch acting and production values audiences expect from “the state’s theater.” What it doesn’t offer is anything particularly fresh or surprising....The cast is perfectly charming. As the widowed spy novelist George Schneider, David Mason...is equal parts endearing awkwardness and annoying arrogance, and Blair Baker, as divorced actress Jennie Malone, has a down-to-earth sweetness that makes you want to root for her..." Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

"Everything falls into place in the romance that bubbles between the two wounded souls of Neil Simon's CHAPTER TWO. It's the getting there, though ~ to that place of uplift and self-renewal ~ that is the challenge, that invigorates the story, and that gives it relevance...The essence of CHAPTER TWO is finding full and glowing expression in Arizona Theatre Company's opening production of its 51st Season. The show is directed by the marvelous Marsha Mason, whose whirlwind romance with the playwright inspired the play. It is graced with stellar performances by David Mason, Blair Baker, Ben Huber, and Diana Pappas. And it's framed by Lauren Helpern's jaw-dropping meticulous set that juxtaposes two distinctively different apartments from economically opposite sides of Manhattan....Simon's alter ego, spy novelist George Schneider (David Mason), returns from a getaway to London that has done little to ease the pain of his wife's death. His brother Leo (Huber) is determined to beat back George's resistance to get on with his life and meet other women. After some failed encounters, Leo urges George to call Jennie Malone (Baker), an aspiring and recently divorced actress, who is likewise being coaxed by her best friend, Faye (Pappas), to take a chance on romance....In a succession of George's clumsy but endearing calls, the barriers to their meeting break down. It's pure Simon, loaded with humor and poignancy and delivered with gusto. The chemistry between Mr. Mason and Ms. Baker is pitch perfect as they shift from reluctant dates to swooning lovers to newlyweds in crisis and an electrifying exchange of truths that tests their mettle and defines their relationship....Ben Huber and Diana Pappas bring another level of energy and delight to the production. Their performances are superb. ... " - Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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