There are good playwrights, bad playwrights, playwrights with good ideas but bad technique and then there is Neil Simon. The most famous and successful playwright of all time. With over 30 plays which include The Odd Couple, The Goodbye Girl, Barefoot in the Park and many many more. Simon is a master of comedy and relationships, if done correctly his work will charm you all night long. That is the key point, if done correctly. Simon’s work focuses so much on relationships and chemistry that if his work is not done by the right actors, all of its charm could fizzle away. This is definitely not the case at Little Fish Theatre with their current production of Chapter Two. The four actors who perform this riveting piece are not only superbly talented they have amazing chemistry with one another.
Chapter Two is a delightful play about two people, George Schneider (Richard Perloff) who is now a widower and Jennie Malone (Trisha Miller), a fresh divorcee. They are hurt, broken and not quite ready to start the second chapter of their lives. Neither are looking for love but they find each other with the help of their matchmaking supporters. The story touches upon the fear of letting go the old, as well as the paralyzing feeling of letting in the new. It is funny and heartwarming and at times rather sad. It has everything it needs to be a stellar play, but why should it not, it is Neil Simon.
What makes this particular production special is the company and the staging/set design. There are two settings in this play, George’s apartment and Jennie’s. Scene Designer, Chris Beyries has done a clever job in creating these two places in a small space. On stage right is George’s apartment, a perfect setting for a writer and on stage left is Jenny’s. The two meet in the middle sharing a sofa for their living rooms. Now this could go totally awry, but it works. At times, George is in his apartment sitting on the couch and Jennie is in her home sitting on her sofa. It may be the same sofa but you completely believe that they are in separate apartments. In order to pull off Beyries clever set, you need phenomenal directing, which Patrick Vest brings, and convincing actors, which they most definitely have.
Perloff is devastating , charming and heart wrenching as the widower George. He loved his deceased wife, Barbara as much as any woman wishes to be loved and is now at a loss. Your heart skips a beat when he loses his mopy lost puppy persona and becomes love struck with the beautiful, clever and funny Jennie. Miller keeps you on your heels as Jennie. She is a strong independent woman who vows not to waste her life on another wasted relationship. Yet when her and George hit a rocky road, she stands up for herself and for their love in a monologue that is riveting. The sidekicks of the play, portrayed by Tony Cicchetti and Dana Pollak are loveable as they push their hurting friends into each others arms.
Chapter Two at Little Fish Theatre is a must see. It has everything you want from an evening at the theater and more. If you have never been to Little Fish then this is the time to go. It is a theater full of people who love what they do and it shows. This is only my second trip to this theater but I can securely state that it is quickly becoming one of my favorite theaters in LA.
Chapter Two runs until April 6th, at Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro.