Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker are heading back to Broadway to star in a revival of “Plaza Suite,” Neil Simon’s incisive comedy about marriage. But first the pair will stage 22 performances at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre.
The pre-Broadway engagement (Feb. 5-22) will mark a homecoming for both “Plaza Suite,” which premiered at the Colonial in 1968, and for Parker, who made her Boston stage debut there eight years later with “The Innocents.” It’s separately a dramatic reunion for its married stars, who last shared a stage in a 1995 revival of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” And for Broderick, whose association with Simon runs deep, “Plaza Suite” is also a chance to honor the playwright, who died in August 2018.
“It’s very strange that a million years have passed, and no years have passed,” Broderick told the Globe. “Growing up when I did in New York, I was very aware of Neil Simon, from watching ‘The Odd Couple,’ ‘Barefoot in the Park,’ and ‘The Goodbye Girl.’ And then, of course, I became aware of him as a person, because I worked with him. I’m thrilled to have another chance to learn his words and play one of his parts.”
A two-time Tony Award winner, Broderick earned his first in 1983 for “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” a play by Simon; his first film role, in “Max Dugan Returns” that same year, was also scripted by Simon. Broderick later starred in Simon’s 1985 play “Biloxi Blues,” reprising the role for a film version three years later, and shared top billing with Nathan Lane in a 2005 Broadway revival of Simon’s “The Odd Couple.”
John Benjamin Hickey, a longtime friend of Parker and Broderick who won an acting Tony in “The Normal Heart,” will direct the production. “When we read it, we were stunned by its relevant, timeless look at marriage, at the intimacy, brutality, and hilarity of what it means to be married to another person,” said Hickey. From the beginning, they hoped to take the show to cities other than New York.
“It feels old-fashioned, in a good way, to have an out-of-town tryout,” said Broderick, who brought his first plays with Simon through three cities before reaching Broadway.
Added Parker: “It was important to us to treat this play as a period piece, and we wanted to create that same feeling of when plays were produced in that fashion.”
Parker, a two-time Emmy winner best known for “Sex and the City,” is looking forward to getting back onstage. “Theater is a medium like no other,” she said. “It’s a very special place, and it’s the only place for an actor where the actor and the audience are hand-in-glove, working together, figuring each other out. You’re feeling the room, they’re feeling the play; there’s a conversation you can’t replicate anywhere else, and that makes it wonderfully exciting.”
Broderick shares her enthusiasm. “The start of a play is very daunting,” he acknowledged. “If you think about it too much, you might not do it. Or at least I might not. But it is one of the great, pure forms.”
Mike Nichols won a Tony for directing “Plaza Suite” on Broadway in 1968, the same year he earned an Oscar for directing “The Graduate.” George C. Scott and Maureen Stapleton starred; both were Tony-nominated for their roles in the play, which ran for three years and over a thousand performances.
In reviving “Plaza Suite,” Hickey hopes to do justice to a playwright he considers one of the all-time greats, worthy of being mentioned alongside Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller.
“I have two great stars in this play,” he said. “But they’ll be the first to tell you: The real star of this play is Neil Simon.”
Tickets are now on sale exclusively for American Express card members, with more opening up to the general public on Sept. 25 at 10 a.m.Isaac Feldberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @isaacfeldberg.