It’s no coincidence Neil Simon’s “Chapter Two” will open the Marco Players’ 37th season. The group has relied on the playwright’s works for its openers in years past.
Everything about the play fits the group’s criteria, said Beverly Dahlstrom during a cue-to-cue rehearsal on Wednesday evening. Dahlstrom is the organization’s president, artistic director and public relations and marketing expert.
“It’s comedy. It’s family relationships, and it’s about mending and healing. It portrays an older man trying to restart life after the death of a partner. A lot of people on Marco Island have had the same experience.”
Although a comedy with many light and deliciously funny scenes, “Chapter Two” also takes a serious look into a second chance at life, said Richard Joyce, the play’s director.
The authenticity of that message stems from the play’s autobiographical nature. George Schneider, played by Michael Hennessey, is Simon personified, capturing attributes most would desire in a self-portrait.
“George is a man of deep values with a deeply founded sense of morality,” said Hennessey. “He has a very strong appreciation of womanhood. He’s a good man, He’s a fair man. He’s a bright man, but he thinks too much.”
In contrast, Leo Schneider, played by Kevin Moriarty, senses that life is short and enjoying it is the only way to live.
Acting as he believes a good brother should, Leo sets out to bring love and happiness back into George’s life. However, the dreadful dating choices Leo makes for George, while revealing the natures of both men, only make things worse.
“Leo is a good guy, but flawed,” said Moriarty. “He knows it, but has no intention of changing. He wants to have his cake and eat it, too.”
In a playful parallel, Faye Medwick, a soap opera diva played by Rachel Gallantine, shoots cupid’s arrows at possible partners for divorced lifetime friend Jennie Malone (Lisa Lang). The effect is equally calamitous.
Love eventually does come to Leo and Jennie through a phone number mix-up. The two meet at a restaurant and love’s intrigue ensues.
As art imitates life, the set design parodies the nuances of division between losing one love and trying to find another. For “Chapter Two,” set designer Jim Swanker divided the stage into two apartments: one on New York City’s east side and the other on its west.
Although the largest city in the U.S. divides Leo’s and Jennie’s apartments, the literal divide is only one wall. The masterfully designed décor speaks volumes on the set. Leo’s half reflects maturity, stability and a mastery of suave. Jennie’s counterpart is modern and smart with a touch of homey sophistication.
“Chapter Two” premieres at 8 p.m. on Wed., Nov. 2.
Tickets are available for performances at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. for Sunday matinees from Nov. 2 through Nov. 20. Doors open one-half hour before performances.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.themarcoplayers.com or by calling 239-642-7270. For walk-in sales, the box office will be open for four hours before each performance.
Single tickets for rows 1-3 are $25, and for remaining seats and wheelchair spots are $23.
The theater is located in Town Center Mall across from the Crazy Flamingo.