Neil Simon’s ‘Proposals’ at Dayton Playhouse

Dave Nickel and Debra Strauss are among the cast of the Dayton Playhouse’s production of Neil Simon’s relationship-driven dramatic comedy “Proposals,” a memory play set in the Poconos, continuing through Nov. 13. CONTRIBUTED
Caption
Dave Nickel and Debra Strauss are among the cast of the Dayton Playhouse’s production of Neil Simon’s relationship-driven dramatic comedy “Proposals,” a memory play set in the Poconos, continuing through Nov. 13. CONTRIBUTED

The Dayton Playhouse’s production of Neil Simon’s 1997 dramatic comedy “Proposals,” the celebrated playwright’s 30th play, continues through Sunday, Nov. 13.

Set in the Poconos in the summer of 1953, Simon’s work is a relationship-driven memory play concerning romantic entanglements within the Hines family. Middle-aged Burt Hines, a workaholic convalescing from a second heart attack, anticipates the arrival of Annie, the ex-wife he still loves. Burt and Annie’s daughter Josie is also in the mix having just broken her engagement to Ken, a Harvard law student, and pines for his friend Ray, an aspiring writer with whom she once had a brief fling. Clemma, the Hines’ dutiful housekeeper, serves as the play’s narrator commenting on the action swirling around her while facing her own complications.

“It’s always important to serve the author when staging a play,” remarked director Jim Lockwood whose previous directorial credits include Simon’s comedy “God’s Favorite” for Beavercreek Community Theatre. “Thankfully, in a Simon play, there’s always pretty good jokes and I want to make sure those jokes land without destroying characterizations. We want to keep the characters intact. But the jokes are so funny in this play and the relationships among the characters are great.”

“I love the role of Annie,” echoed Debra Strauss seen last season in Beavercreek Community Theatre’s “California Suite” and Dayton Theatre Guild’s “Night Watch.” “Annie struggles with so much loss; a daughter who feels betrayed by her parents’ divorce, and ex-husband who may not recover from a heart attack, and the sadness in leaving a broken relationship. And yet she remains hopeful she can find a way forward for herself and her family.”

Although “Proposals” didn’t have a long life on Broadway, playing only 76 performances and 11 previews, Lockwood says it greatly resonates in terms of its charm and dramatic bent. The play didn’t win a Tony Award or Pulitzer Prize as many of Simon’s more popular works, but the script retains its appeal nonetheless.

“There are no gimmicks in this play,” Lockwood reminded. “This play also reminds us we sometimes hurt the people we love. I really want this production to stress a sense of family and the reality of the relationships. The audience will have a good time, but they will also go home with a great message that we make a difference in each other’s lives. It’s important to take care of the relationships you have.”

“What I find the most compelling about ‘Proposals’ are the beautiful and varied depictions of love and relationships in all its stages,” Strauss echoed. “We experience the confusion and excitement of young love, the pain and regret of lost love, and the tender rekindling of reclaimed love.”

The cast includes Catherine A. Collins, Casey Dillon, Franklin Johnson, Ian Manuel, Christina Monroe, Dave Nickel, Jeremy Robbins, and Alicia Walton.


WANT TO GO?

What: "Proposals"

Where: Dayton Playhouse, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., Dayton

When: Through Nov. 13; 2 p.m. Today and next Sunday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Cost: $18 for adults; $16 for seniors, students and military.

Tickets/more info: Call (937) 424-8477 or visit online at www.daytonplayhouse.com