If the elegant Russian Tea Room on New York City's 57th Street is the hangout for the theater world's rich and famous, there is an equally beloved hangout for the has-beens and soon-to-be famous. It's an unpretentious little coffee shop, known by its theater-loving patrons as the Polish Tea Room, where snappy advice and matzoh ball soup are dished out in equal proportions. It's easy to find. It's only "45 Seconds From Broadway."
Its real name is the Café Edison, and it's located off the lobby of the seedy, midtown Hotel Edison on 47th Street. Neil Simon brings it to life in his quip-filled "45 Seconds From Broadway," a valentine to Broadway, opening Friday, May 17, at Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave., Talent.
The show previews Thursday, May 16, and a fundraising performance for the Community Health Center will be offered Wednesday, May 15.
What: Neil Simon's "45 Seconds From Broadway"
When: Previews Thursday, May 16-46; opens Friday, May 17
Where: Camelot Theatre, 101 Talent Ave., Talent
Tickets: $10 for the preview; all other tickets cost $24, $22 for students and seniors
Call: 541-535-5250 or see www.camelottheatre.org
"45 Seconds From Broadway" revolves around stand-up comedian Mickey Fox, who dispenses one-liners and caustic advice with the same speed that the eatery's proprietors refill coffee cups. The coffee shop regulars include all sorts of wannabees and also-rans — a kibitzing theater producer, an ingenue straight off the bus from Ohio, a starving South African playwright, a black actress and two faux-Chanel garbed matinee ladies from the suburbs, eternally kvetching about the quality of theater. Not to mention the wealthy and eccentric lady who arrives with her nearly mute escort, demanding all the niceties of high tea.
In true Neil Simon style, the zingers travel back and forth at breakneck speed.
"Our very first read-through was a 'speed-through,' " says the show's director, Camelot veteran Paul R. Jones. "We were saying lines as fast as possible to get Simon's cadence. The lines are there. You don't have to reach for the punch. You just have to be true to the character."
"45 Seconds From Broadway" stars David Gabriel as the center-stage Fox, along with Roy Von Rains Jr., Sarah Gore, Steven Dominguez, Rob Hirshboeck, Brandy Carson, Grant Shepherd, Jade Chavis Watt, Linda Otto, Pam Ward, Jack Seybold and Susan DuMond.
"The four scenes in the play take place over the course of an entire year," Jones says. "We really get to know individual and intriguing characters."
"45 Seconds From Broadway" was Simon's 33rd play, premiering on Broadway in late 2001. Despite good reviews, it was not one of his biggest successes and closed after only about 70 performances. In spite of that, it has gone on to have a long and happy life in repertory and community theater.
"This play is really Neil Simon's comment on the state of American theater at the beginning of the 21st century," Jones says. "Mickey Fox is Simon's alter ego, and the matinee ladies are sort of a Greek chorus."
"45 Seconds From Broadway" will run through June 9 at Camelot Theatre. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and matinees are set for 2 p.m. Sundays.
Tickets cost $22 for the May 15 Community Health Center fundraiser; $10 for the May 16 preview. All other tickets cost $24; $22 for seniors and students (except for matinees). Tickets may be purchased at www.camelottheatre.org, by calling 541-535-5250 or at the box office.
Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at email@example.com.