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Arena Theatre serving dinner and laughs with Neil Simon's 'Plaza Suite'

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What: Arena Dinner Theatre presents “Plaza Suite,” a comedy play by Neil Simon.
When: Friday, Saturday and May 3, 4, 10, 11. Doors and cash bar open at 6:15 p.m.; dinner is at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.
Where: Arena Dinner Theatre, 719 Rockhill St.
Cost: $35. To order tickets or for more information about the show or menu, call the Arena box office at 424-5622 or go to Box office hours are 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday and on show dates, and at 6:30 p.m. on performance dates.
Note: Dinner is catered by The Bagel Station. Vegetarian and gluten-free meals are available, but they must be ordered when making ticket reservations.

Thursday, April 25, 2013 - 12:01 am

Neil Simon's play “Plaza Suite,” which premieres Friday at Arena Dinner Theatre and runs through May 11, has stood the test of time to become one of Simon's most popular productions.

First produced on Broadway in 1968 and later made into a movie starring Walter Matthau in 1971, “Plaza Suite” consists of three acts that feature three different couples who occupy the same suite, Suite 719, on separate occasions at New York City's Plaza Hotel.

Each of the three couples has their own particular set of comical circumstances in a play that examines three very different relationships with undertones of disillusionment and regret along with the light comic touch typical of a Neil Simon play.

Fred Krauskopf, the director of Arena's version of “Plaza Suite,” says it was his love of Neil Simon's work and comic sensibility that made him to want to direct this production.

“I've been a fan of Neil Simon back since the '60s when I saw his first show 'The Odd Couple,' the movie as well as the stage production,” Krauskopf said. “I've seen most of his stuff that's been in Fort Wayne and the area.”

He's also performed in several productions of the plays.

“ Locally, I've done 'The Odd Couple' on six different occasions, so I like Neil Simon, let's just put it that way.”

Although Krauskopf has been involved in the local theater scene for 30 years as a performer and stage manager, as well as being a member of the board of directors at Arena, this is his first time directing a play.

He says the only thing different about directing is sitting on the other side of the cast. He has enjoyed bringing this production to Arena Dinner Theatre and making it work in that setting.

“Our stage here at Arena is kind of on the small side compared to what a lot of theater spaces are,” Krauskopf said. “The show itself, the way that it's written, it can be done in a small place or a large place. Each scene has it's own funny spots.

“The one scene where the husband and wife are arguing about him supposedly having an affair with his secretary; it's not quite as funny as the other two, but there's a lot of things that go on that makes it funny as well as it gives you a chance to think about life and love and the different things that go on in all of our lives.”

The cast includes several faces familiar to local theatergoers, such as Mary Alberding, Kevin Knuth and Gloria Minnich.

Krauskopf says his cast has done a tremendous job. He believes their skills as actors bring out the humor in the play, and it's the humor that really drives this production.

“I think probably the funniest part in the show for me is the third scene where the father and mother are trying to get their daughter out of the bathroom,” Krauskopf said. “The concept itself is very funny.

“The two players we have, Kevin and Mary, are both very good at what they do and, in that particular scene, they are both very funny.

“The whole show is funny,” Krauskopf added. “The first scene has some kind of touching moments since the marriage is kind of falling apart, but it's still Neil Simon and he will do about anything for laughs. That's the way it's set up.”