MARCO ISLAND — The Marco Players opened their 37th season Wednesday evening, with a familiar author taking top billing. Neil Simon’s “Chapter Two,” an exploration of bereavement, second marriage, and how they conflict, opened a three-week run.
The company has staged numerous Simon plays, often as the season opener, said Players’ president and artistic director Beverly Dahlstrom. “People just like Neil Simon. It’s become a tradition,” she said.
Clocking in at over three hours, “Chapter Two” has time for a thorough development of its themes, that getting over losing a beloved spouse is hard, and there is no situation where a one-line zinger can’t squeeze a laugh from the audience. There were plenty of laughs, and plenty of angst, and – surprise – the course of true love did not run smooth.
Based on Simon’s relationship with actress Marsha Mason, the play follows recently widowed writer George Schneider as he attempts to pull his life together after losing his wife. Michael Hennessey makes the role his own, though the character’s tendency to blubber would have tested the patience of a less saintly partner than Jennie, played by Lisa Lang.
Much of the action takes place on the telephone, back when phone meant land line, and the stage is bisected between George’s apartment and Jennie’s. Kevin Moriarty plays George’s delightfully smarmy brother Leo, and Rachel Gallentine plays Jennie’s friend Faye, who, although both married, have a parallel stab at a fling/affair/relationship.
All is grist for the humor mill. “Is it physically possible, that if I stop having sex for a long time, I can go back to being a virgin?” Jennie asks Faye. When his chiropractor’s ex tries to chat him up (over the phone), George laments, “he leaves me with a bad back – and his wife.”
“Chapter Two” continues with evening performances Wednesday through Saturday, and Sunday matinees, through November 20. Tickets can be purchased online at www.themarcoplayers.com, or by calling 239-642-7270.