A not so suite romance...
The plan: dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner before heading over to Hudson Theatre. Table for three? In classic New York fashion, the answer was no. A wait too long, confirmed by the line of aspiring patrons shivering up the block, hungry for a show.
A short trip down the avenue took us instead to Junior’s–another classic diner that deserves no complaint, but I couldn’t help it; I’d waited years to return to Ellen’s, to sing along to Broadway anthems between burger bites and sips of a milkshake.
A common case, isn’t it? A thing not working out as planned? So common, in fact, it’s hardly worth mentioning. I’d be far more concise detailing the events of my life that have gone as planned. Person plans; God laughs. A universally known truth, agreed upon across party lines. And yet, the degree to which this truth is realized in the recently revived Broadway hit, Plaza Suite, is utterly jarring, and most certainly worth mentioning.
Set (and originally produced) in the sixties, the three-act play depicts old cliches of powerful, rich men mistreating their domesticated, subservient wives during their stays at Manhattan's Plaza Hotel. It was, at times, hard to watch.
“Karen, get me a pen!” barks one of the aforementioned men at his wife while on the phone with his secretary. Moments later, when Karen has failed to produce a pen, the man again, “Karen, a pen!” Unable to find one, having packed for a celebratory, anniversary evening–not a corporate offsite, she hands him a lipstick with which he is forced to write down a Very Important Figure. A small act of defiance, but only out of desperation.
Karen’s real act of defiance comes when she discovers her husband's infidelity and neither sheds a tear, nor bears even a hint of emotion beyond tired, bored disappointment in his lack of originality. “Everyone sleeps with their secretary,” she tells him, unimpressed.
A sad, pessimistic overtone of life passing you by spanned the play–the notion that at one moment, these characters were happily married, but had blinked and found themselves miserable. And what I found to be unsatisfying was that the story offered no solutions. Worse, even–it conveyed the message that the cycle would inevitably repeat itself. In the final act, a young bride is late to the altar; she’s hiding in the bathroom, fearful that her marriage might turn out like that of her quarreling parents. The thing to warm her cold feet? To reassure her of a happily ever after? An authoritative “cool it” from her schoolboyish fiancé. The wedding–the show–goes on.
The only true allusion to the possibility of a happy ending, in a relieving juxtaposition, is that which the actors offer us beneath their costumes. Co-starring as the three couples are Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, who have been married over twenty years–happily, it seems. And if you doubt the truth in their loving, public remarks about one another, their true chemistry is undeniable on stage. It serves as a perpetual wink at the audience, a wink that says, marriage isn’t all that bad, as they exchange cruel and delusional lines. At the final bow, Matthew Broderick plants a kiss on his wife’s hand. We can all exhale. It was only a play.
In the end, it wasn’t the night I’d expected, the night I’d wanted. Dinner was different, and the play left me dejected. Yet, I’d had a delicious meal and, as a single twentysomething, a welcome reminder that relationships aren't all fun and games. That sometimes, a night on the town with your single friends is just the thing.
As I fell asleep that night, I couldn’t help but wonder: is it really marriage that’s outdated, or is it just men?