The Orillia Opera House opens its summer theatre season with Neil Simon’s classic comedy, Plaza Suite, July 4-20. It’s a peek into the life of three different couples who occupy the same hotel suite at different times. The show has been a long-running success on stage, film, and television since it opened on Broadway in late 60s.
“This season represents a combination of things really well, like marquis value, title and history that’s proven,” said artistic director Jesse Collins, on choosing the plays.
This year marks his third season programming Orillia summer theatre. The director/actor/playwright filled in and produced the summer season four years ago, on a program he inherited. He fell in love with the theatre space and stayed on.
“It’s grown terrifically well, we’re really pleased with it,” he said, adding the season can include a broad range of things from music to elements of drama but a lot is generally comedy. “Usually there is a little heart in all these (shows but) not heavy. We like to keep things straightforward and let people know (it’s) come as you are: off the boat and into the theatre (no dress code).”
The second show of the season features one of Canada’s most prolific playwrights, Norm Foster. Lunenburg is all about secrets and mysteries, as the recently-widowed Iris learns more about her husband’s past.
“I keep my eye on the plays he comes out with because (they are) accessible, engaging, have a lot of heart,” said Collins, who has directed premieres of Foster plays in the past and considers the playwright an old friend. “I was keeping my eye out for a really hot one (and) Lunenburg fit the bill.”
The summer season ends with Murder at the Howard Johnson’s, written by Sam Bobrick and Ron Clark. The American playwrights have also worked on a variety of successful shows for television.
“This play asks the questions, is all fair in love, even murder?” said Collins, adding that it was set in the 70s when people were into self-examination. “It centers on a love triangle between a woman, her lover and her husband. The play is a little wacky, fun, has a little love triangle and they all attempt to kill each other. When you can take murder and make it hilarious, it’s a gift.”
Collins started out as an actor but, these days, he does more directing, show organization for touring, writing and creating new work. Born in Canada, he moved to England at an early age and didn’t return until he was eight years old. He lived in Cannington, Ont. and went to the University of Toronto for one year, when he was spotted by an agent in a show. He took a year off to work and kept on going.
For ticket options, call the box office at 705-326-8011.
Photo: Brian Young and Maria Dinn star in the 2016 production of Neil Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers.