Anyone familiar with Jith Peiris’s plays, would be sure to note that the comedies staged by the veteran director are always spot on in terms of engaging an audience. In fact as the cast of Neil Simon’s ‘Plaza Suite’ put it, the play is right up Jith’s alley, owing to its “rib-tickling” comedy. ‘Plaza Suite’ [...]


Rib tickling comedy with Neil Simon’s ‘Plaza Suite’


Anyone familiar with Jith Peiris’s plays, would be sure to note that the comedies staged by the veteran director are always spot on in terms of engaging an audience.

Pix by Indika Handuwala

In fact as the cast of Neil Simon’s ‘Plaza Suite’ put it, the play is right up Jith’s alley, owing to its “rib-tickling” comedy.

‘Plaza Suite’ is three one-act plays in one setting: As the title depicts, it takes place in a suite in New York’s iconic Plaza Hotel. Jith will be staging two out of the three playlets, namely ‘Visitor from Hollywood’ and ‘Visitor from Forest Hills.’ He will also be including a ‘Walk on Broadway’ that will feature eight to ten songs from famous musicals.

We met the cast of both playlets, earlier this week. Neatly clad in their tuxedos and fancy dresses, they give us an insight into their characters.

First up was Wayne White, who will be portraying Jesse Kiplinger in ‘Visitor from Hollywood’. Jesse is a Hollywood producer in his early thirties, and is known as a ladies man. But, don’t let that have you fooled though because Jesse has another side to him. He is secretly a hopeless romantic. And it’s this mix of characteristics that Wayne enjoys playing around with.

‘Jesse’ is a far cry from Wayne’s last role on stage as Kenickie in ‘Grease: The Musical.’ But, he found the progression between characters fairly easy. This was partly due to his ability to compartmentalise each character, as well as the fact that both productions are set in a similar time period of early to late 50s. This ensures that style and mannerisms were the same, and didn’t feel too alien.

Though Wayne wasn’t familiar with the play prior to being cast, he tells us he has always wanted to work for Uncle Jith, having seen and loved quite a few of his plays. After reading for the character, he fit in perfectly with the cast and began rehearsing from there.



The show will be a mix of comedy, drama and musical numbers, but from Wayne’s part of the Plaza Suite, he teases a combination of relatable drama and real life.

And indeed he might just be right. As the story goes, Jesse has two hours to kill in New York, and rings up his childhood sweetheart, Muriel Tate (Tanisha Wijesinghe). Muriel, who is a married woman and a mother of three knows just what Jesse wants. As Tanisha puts it, Muriel is emotional and flustered to be there with Jesse. She keeps getting more vocal as the night goes on and the drinks keep flowing.

This is 25 year old Tanisha’s first acting role in Sri Lanka since she was in school, and she feels she has matured both personally and as an actress. This in turn has helped her to portray a range of emotions on stage, and be comfortable with it.

With a combination of comedy, scandal and lots of drama, Tanisha hopes the audience will be entertained, and cheekily adds that it will get them “thinking about their childhood!”

Though packed with comedy, the second play in the Plaza Suite, namely ‘Visitor from Forest Hills’ packs in a different concoction of emotions. As Amarsha Tissera, who portrays ‘Norma Hubley’ puts it, not many people are familiar with Neil Simon. But he is an excellent playwright, whose work is always understandable. “The script is not regionally based. So anyone could essentially grasp what the play is,” she says, adding that it’s beautiful to work with a script like that.

Amarsha’s character is a typical mum who worries about both her daughters, Mimsey Hubley and herself. As Mimsey locks herself in the bathroom just before her wedding, Norma goes through every emotion imaginable. “Just like a typical Sri Lankan mother,” Amarsha cheekily adds.

During the play Norma rips her stockings and breaks her diamond ring, and Amarsha finds it funny how she tends to focus on that aspect as a priority, as opposed to getting her daughter out.




‘Roy Hubley’ on the other hand, the father of ‘Mimsey’ is a businessman. And where business is concerned, he’s got everything under control. But when it comes to the business of marrying off his daughter, he’s a frightened little man!

Ruwanka Leanage, who portrays him, gleefully describes how explosive his character is. Ruwanka feels it’s all about showcasing Roy’s range of emotions on stage. The hilarious journey of Roy dealing with his daughter being locked in the bathroom for half an hour is what would have the audience in stitches.

Both Ruwanka and Amarsha equally maintain that when it comes to keeping their audience engaged, it has a lot to do with how you pace your emotions and dialogue throughout the play. These are some of the key things the entire cast is focussed on.

Finally we speak to Meth Bandaranayake, who will be portraying Borden Eisler, the to be husband of Mimsie. He describes Borden as a carefree guy, who plays a pivotal role in unravelling the mess at the end.

This will be Meth’s third time in one of Jith’s plays and he tells us, the audience is definitely in for a good laugh because they’ve got a really good script with “real powerhouses playing these characters.”

Some of the other singers for the evening will include Joanne Aloysius Rajayah, Daniella Pereira, Shenelle Fernando, Banu Fernando and Kovindu de Saram. The evening will also include two dance performances by Joshua and Trisha Fernandez.

The ‘Plaza Suite’ will take place at the Lionel Wendt on August 30 and 31, starting at 7.30 p.m. Tickets are priced at Rs. 3500, Rs. 3000, Rs. 2000, Rs. 1200, and Rs. 800 (balcony). For further information log onto

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