On Monday evening in New York City, “Plaza Suite,” a Neil Simon comedy starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, opened on Broadway with a comedic crash nearly three years in the making.
Set in the late-1960s, “Plaza Suite” comprises three one act plays in which Broderick and Parker — married in real life — portray couples staying in a suite at the Plaza Hotel. In the final act — a grand farce in which the pair play parents whose bride-to-be daughter has barricaded herself in the bathroom — Broderick takes a slapstick run at the locked-shut door. On Monday, in front of a star-studded crowd including Mayor Eric Adams, Broderick busted right through the set in an opening night gaff for the Broadway books.
“That likely won’t happen again,” Parker laughed the next morning in an interview with Variety.
Directed by Parker and Broderick’s close friend, John Benjamin Hickey, “Plaza Suite” was intended to open on Broadway in spring 2020, but was cut short by the pandemic’s closure of live theater. Back then, Parker and Broderick had mulled the play for some time, having read the comedy together at an Upper West Side arts center for an intimate evening assembled by Hickey.
“We were not looking to work together. That wasn’t a goal of ours,” Parker told Variety. “We didn’t spend our time mining materials for a project to do together. That never occurred to us. We were charmed, simply, by this play.”
There is particular comfort to a Simon comedy coming to Broadway at this uncertain time in theater, however dated its material might be. Even a cynic, armed with criticisms about the play’s dusty, gender-reliant parody, could appreciate the allure of a Parker and Broderick ticket this Broadway season. Of course, the arc of Broderick’s own career, which began in earnest after Simon cast him in his semi-autobiographical 1983 play, “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” has been shaped by the playwright.
“There are audience members who know Neil Simon, and then there’s a group of people who have absolutely no idea who Neil Simon is,” Parker said. “You’re now introducing a whole new audience to a very specific time in the American theater. This play does not speak to today’s world, to how we think about each other now.”
For Parker, whose own life in the theater began with the 1976 Broadway play “The Innocents,” “Plaza Suite” is a useful relic. After all, “Plaza Suite” is of a different era in theater, not just of Simon’s 20th century-bound comedy but of a pre-pandemic Broadway.
“We always want to be back on the stage, but this one had a particular kind of special quality,” Parker said. “Jane Greenwood has been designing costumes since the 1960s. Brian MacDevitt, our lighting designer, came out of Naked Angels, a theater company Matthew and my brothers founded. Marc Shaiman, who wrote the original music, is a dear old friend.”
“It’s a coming together of a lot of people who have devoted their lives to the theater,” she continued. “Our notes to each other were the same last night, ‘Gratitude, and all these years.’”
On opening night, Mayor Eric Adams recalled the significance of starry Broadway offerings like “Plaza Suite” to the New York economy—and his own fandom for its stars. “Sarah Jessica Parker, you know. I watched ‘Sex And the City’ the whole time it was on,” he said. “This is a symbol of New Yorkers doing a play here in the city they call home, live. Let’s not forget that it draws tourists back to a multi-billion dollar industry.”
The next morning, still exhausted from the release of opening night, Parker couldn’t hint to any future collaborations between her and her husband, but left open the possibility that fans who can’t come to New York might still be able to see the show.
“There’s been interest in filming the production,” she said, “And we’ll start having those conversations now. Filming was something we talked about after the Broadway shutdown, and that remains something we’re trying to figure out.”
She added, “One thing at a time.”