Think carefully about where you sit in the Rose Wagner Studio Theater for Wasatch Theatre Company’s production of Neil Simon’s Chapter Two. It could have an unusual effect on how you think about it.
Director Lane Richins turns the space lengthwise for the side-by-side New York City apartment sets of George Schneider (Brian Pilling), a widower still recovering from the death of his beloved wife more than a year earlier, and Jennie Malone (J.J. Peeler), who’s emerging from a divorce. Set up by George’s brother, Leo (David Hanson), and Jennie’s best friend, Faye (Michelle Linn Hall), the two take a stab at a relationship that gets unexpectedly serious unexpectedly soon.
Richins avoids making the 1978 play too obviously a period piece, though some of the signifiers are clearly not contemporary. He gathers an impressive cast—Peeler is particularly terrific—to ignite Simon’s rat-a-tat dialogue, and finds the emotional hook in scenes that could easily play as mere Theater of Recriminations.
I’d advise finding a seat on the right-hand side of the house, though, so that you’re squarely aligned with George’s apartment. Chapter Two’s most powerful scenes take place there, and sitting a body length away from the raw emotions creates a uniquely vital experience that might not be the same on the opposite end of the long, shallow seating area; it did present a challenge connecting with a key scene between Leo and Faye that took place on the opposite side. A well-selected chair might mean the difference between seeing something good, and something great.