April 3, 2011


LA Theater Works, 20 Compact Disks, 2010, /$119

These plays are remarkable , and having them all together on twenty CDs allows us to appreciate their range and depth in a way that seeing one of them as a play or movie does not. I am only half way through but can’t hold back any longer (I’ll do a second review when I finish the other half).

 We begin with Barefoot in the Park and I can just imagine out of town audiences getting their first glimpse of what New Yorkers who they only see from a distance are really like. And those audiences are staying in hotels, like the Plaza, so in Plaza Suite Simon goes on to show them there is drama everywhere – from an anniversary couple who have fallen out of love to a wedding in which the bridesmaid has locked herself in her parents’ hotel bathroom and refuses to come out despite their threatening and cajoling her. These three acts both stand apart and complement each other.

Then the formula moves to the West Coast in California Suite.  Less good, but still in all the Simon plays the characters stand out because of their contrasting goals, Simon’s often funny lines and his great humanity, which comes into full blossom with Brighton Beach Memoirs (and its sequal Broadway Bound). Here the narrator is a young boy who wants to be a writer (Neil Simon) and who is caught up in the lives of his family members. Wow! To listen to these words and not be distracted by staging is magic. I found myself chocked up by emotion that went well beyond the specifics of the play. You will too.

I have written before about the pros and cons of audio productions, but this LA Theater Works production is a treasure you will be happy to have and listen to over and over. Thank you. You have given me and other listeners the unique chance to be an active participant in some of the great contemporary theater of our time.

Order directly from amazon for only $87.66.  Click: The Neil Simon Collection (Library Edition  Audio CDs)


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