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Review of Stamford Shoestring Theatre’s ‘California Suite’ at Stamford Arts Centre

If you’ve ever heard muffled noises and wondered what’s going on in the hotel room next door, then California Suite offers some extraordinary explanations.

The 45-year-old script by American playwright Neil Simon was chosen by Stamford Shoestring Theatre for a run of performances in September last year, but the death of the Queen cut this short.

Its second opening night at Stamford Arts Centre was on Tuesday (June 6) and the four separate stories played by a cast of just five actors were well-received, with their edgy, argumentative and zany characters prompting a full range of audience reactions, from seat-squirming tension through to genuine hilarity.

California Suite
California Suite

Annie Corrigan and Philip Gorman open the play as the Warrens, an ex-couple locked in love-tinged bitterness. Corrigan’s New York accent holds true throughout the scene, as does Gorman’s subtler interpretation of the American twang, as a man who has moved to the West Coast – presumably to get away from the ex-wife.

This versatile duo reappears later as Diana and Sidney Nichols, an English couple off to the Oscars, and again they convey the frustrations of two people who know each other far too well and can’t resist picking fault whenever the chance arises.

Matt Norris, Ellen Fraser and Dominique Norris put in entertaining performances as a man caught out by the arrival of his wife (Fraser) while he tries to hide a drunk prostitute in the hotel bed. They return in the final act, along with Gorman, as two couples locking horns over a shared holiday and producing plenty of slapstick laughs in the process.

Despite being hugely wordy, the script is delivered by the cast in near-faultless fashion, and the only criticism is that some of the play’s references and themes are dated. When a marriage of convenience is revealed by two of the characters, 1970s eyebrows probably leapt several inches. These days anyone under 25 would find it odd that they’d embark on a ‘straight’ relationship in the first place.

California Suite runs nightly at Stamford Arts Centre until Saturday (June 10). Tickets £12 (£10) from the box office on 01780 763203 or stamfordartscentre.com

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