|Let me start out with a little story.... A little while back I was
atop Rockefeller Center at this private plush
birthday gala with a twenty-some piece orchestra for Nathan Lane. It was one of those magical nights and a major birthday milestone for him. My husband, John
Byner and I got to sit with "the" Neil Simon and his wife Elaine Joyce. I couldn't believe that I was actually sitting next to him at a
table for four, and while all these incredible performers got up to do something, I told him how much it meant to me when I saw the film "Chapter Two". I didn't mention
that Marsha Mason was always one of my heroines because after all here he is with his current wife on his left while I was the one his right. I told him it just touched me so much, and he told me, "You
would be a wonderful Jennie.
Well, in a million years I never thought that would come to fruition but by g-d I just wrapped
up a wonderful run doing this role and I gave it "my all"...you'll just have to trust me on that.
A little more back story for those of you who saw the flick a long long time ago or who never
ever saw it. First it was a major hit on Broadway--it's a semi auto-biographical story based on his meeting Marsha Mason and having been widowed a few years before. Finding joy and love and contentment, they
have a whirlwind romance and get married, and then on their honeymoon he gets guilt issues over being so happy and he takes it out on you-know-who. He wrote this three years into their ten year marriage and she
got to play herself in the film--I guess that helped her get over his insults, abuse and insensitivities he showered her with--and the rest as they say is history.
The play is a bit of a different species: It's much tougher--their is cursing their is
yelling. It's a roller coaster of emotions and it is so well written. I don't know, it's got a lot of everything in it. So maybe it's a dramedy and the more we rehearsed the more we realized so many
things our characters said and did had so much more meaning than we thought.
I couldn't have worked with a better cast. From the first reading Peter
Gutierrez as George (which is really Neil Simon) was right on the money. We got to play so effectively off each other, and I found out that he had also "always"
loved this play and was thrilled to do it. The part of Leo his brother was played by Jim Bowe (in real life his brothers name was Danny Simon also
a writer and so much this character. I got to know him a bit in LA....and he was always trying to fix his brother up with someone--I'm not kidding--just like the play. Jim Bowe
captured this character and I think it would be hard pressed to find anyone who could do a better job. Jennie has a best friend Faye who like Leo is married but they still embark on a romance out of boredom at
home...this was played by Peggy Jones who made the part that Valerie Harper played in the movie version her very own.
Chapter 2 won The Los Angeles Drama Critics Award for Best Playwriting.
The stage is divided in half ...one side being George's apt and the other side Jennies. We were
directed by Bruce Heighley who would not sit us down and give us critiques in front of each other, which can be a cringing moment after each rehearsal even if your not the one being
critiqued. But would call or email or take us aside to give us his thoughts. The audiences gave us cheers and whistles and a standing "o" on our final performance.
So, remember that little story I mentioned back in the beginning about NS
saying to me, AG, "that I would be a wonderful Jennie." Well, since this show was not playing anywhere for any length of time I would like to mention an e-mail that was
forwarded to me: it said "I would like to convey to Annie that my wife and I believe that Marsha Mason could not have performed Jennie Malone any better then she did last
night. We thought she was flawless with an excellent supporting cast." Well, that wasn't in the paper, but that audience member brought it full circle and made it all worth while.