Black Box Theatre presents: ‘California Suite’

Alexandria Watson

There’s a moment in the first act of Northern Michigan University’s production of “California Suite” in which businessman Marvin Michaels (Brady Skewis) rolls out of bed, looks around the room and sees bottles of champagne, vodka and clothing scattered across the floor. The fog from the night before lifts, and he realizes there is a comatose prostitute in his bed. Suddenly, a knock at the door; how will he explain this to his wife?re2-CaliforniaSuite_ET

“California Suite” brings the audience back to 1977 in rooms 203/204 at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Set designer Steve McCain had an eye-catching set with a rainbow-painted wall, shag carpeting and a mustard yellow bed cover that played to the audience’s attention.

With an unabashedly goofball plot that’s built around four comedic scenes, NMU’s adaptation of Neil Simon’s “California Suite” captivated the audience in the James A. Panowski Black Box Theatre Thursday evening.

In one act, divorced couple Hannah (Mary Glittenberg) and William (Dorsey Sprouls) argue over custody of their daughter. Glittenberg delivered, playing the perfect New York power-woman who is fighting to keep her daughter in New York City. Her easy-going, Los Angeles-loving ex-husband gently argues that his daughter is better off in the sunny City of Angels. The intense topic and true heartbreak was played out flawlessly by both.

An actress, Diana Nichols (Korinne Griffith) frets over her Oscar nomination, as her gay husband Sydney Nichols (Anthony Pruett) comes out of the closet. From the first cry about her awful wardrobe choice Griffith captured the audience, then her wonderfully flamboyant husband (Pruett) helps the comedy roll on as he lectures her on Oscar etiquette. Stress runs high after her Oscar loss, but the compassion and love they both share for each other helps them overcome even harder obstacles.

Two competitive doctors, Mort Hollender (Charles Owsley) and Stu Franklyn (Dorsey Sprouls), settle their differences with a free-for-all tennis game on a joint vacation with their wives, Beth Hollender (Jill Vermelulen) and Gert Franklyn (Elizabeth Trueblood). From the first cry of a broken ankle by Vermelulen’s character the audience was in tears of laughter.

The non-stop competition between Owsley and Sprouls kept everyone in the theatre trying to contain their loud laughs. The vacation from hell was played perfectly by all and seemed to be a fan favorite. It was a perfect close to a wonderful show.

The Northern Michigan University student adaptation of “California Suite” will make you laugh, think and feel compassion for every actor and actress on stage.

Directors Ansley Valentine and Alysa Spivak should be proud of the beautiful studio classic that they have made come to life with their talented cast and crew. Bravo to all.

Experience the leaps and pratfalls these characters go through this weekend in the Black Box theatre at NMU.

The show is running October 1-3, 2015 at 7:30pm, and tickets may be purchased online or at the door.