Saturday, May 12, 2012

Review- California Suite- Sweet and Sour Productions

Tonight I attended Sweet and Sour's presentation of Neil Simon's California Suite. Neil Simon is the bread and butter of comedy in America. We are raised and spoon fed him as the base of all that is good about quintessential American Comedy. California Suite was written in 1976 and is VERY seventies. I was discussing with my friends in the audience about how I think pieces from the seventies should be considered period pieces now. A lot of the pop culture jokes in California Suite no longer translate as funny especially to a Hong Kong audience because they have no idea who these people are... When California Suite debuted it was received to mixed reviews. Some people raved about it as it was considered the unofficial sequel to his previous hit Plaza Suite and some people panned it. One reviewer from the New York Times even called it "Sleazy and shoddily constructed" OUCH... No need for such tough words tonight as I thought my evening with Sweet and Sour was very sweet.

Directed by maestro Candice Moore I was happy to see her try her hand at comedy for a change. I have come to expect dark and twisted pieces from her as she is normally known in town for any shows having to do with: secrets, being depressed or self loathing. Challenging yourself as an artist is an important task and I thought that Moore's take on comedy was a strong one. The show came across as expensive, neurotic and delightfully vintage. I enjoyed the blocking most in the last scene; I felt the space was used well.

The scenic design was quintessential Lara Genovese. She is our go to girl for split scenes. If you need a scenic design with a split room she is the girl who can do it beautifully. I did feel some of the scenes were stifled by the split design particularly because of the door in the center stage. I understood why it was there realistically but the first scene in particular felt very trapped movement wise. (To the couch- away from the couch-wash- rinse- repeat.) I would love to see Genovese take on something completely different in her next scenic design project. Can someone give her something completely surrealist like The Dream Play or Godot to work on? Please? I would love to see what she could do with it... PS- LOVE the wallpaper in the bathroom!!!!
Sweet and Sour's production. Delightfully funny prat at it's best...

There were no weak points from the show acting wise. I thought the whole cast was strong. I did feel the show was long. It was almost two and half hours. For a comedy, that is REALLY long. I felt perhaps it could have been a bit snappier in places. I'm a firm believer in the louder, faster= funnier principals of comedy. But it was a very well acted show. My favorite scene was "The Visitors from Philadelphia" as I felt it had excellent vocals, movement, character and the pacing was very quick in this scene. I also loved the pacing at the end of "The Visitors of Chicago".

I also enjoyed seeing different people or people that I haven't seen in a while on stage. Most of the people in the cast have either taken a break from the stage for a bit or are people I haven't seen before. We are happy to have them back and I always enjoy seeing different people! Change is good in such a small theatre community... I love all of you but I like seeing what different people can do! No one wants to go to the theatre keep seeing the same people on stage over and over again. Where's the fun in that?

A really enjoyable night of theatre and well worth the ticket price. If you're a fan of Neil Simon you will enjoy yourself but make sure you brush up on your seventies pop culture references before hand!

My only negative criticism of the show is the pacing and the length of the show.  But at least when a show is long you know you are getting your money's worth! There is still one more performance tomorrow at 3pm! Check it out!

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