John Benjamin Hickey discusses working with stars Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker in the revival of Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite
Get ready to laugh, Boston! “Carrie” and “Bueller” are checking into Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite and it’s one of the most highly anticipated pre-Broadway premieres since, well, 1968 when it first appeared on stage at the Colonial (now Emerson Colonial) Theatre. Husband-and-wife dynamic duo Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker perform together for the first time in more than 20 years in this hilarious and ever-relatable three-part comedy that director John Benjamin Hickey calls “a hilarious and very touching play…about figuring out how to keep a long-term marriage going, about re-meeting your high school sweetheart” and “what it’s like to be a parent and see your kids grow up and leave you alone with each other again.”
One might be surprised to learn the upcoming production marks Hickey’s Broadway directorial debut. Hickey is a celebrated actor, appearing in acclaimed productions of Love! Valour! Compassion!, Cabaret, The Normal Heart (for which he won a Tony Award for Featured Actor in a Play), Six Degrees of Separation and, most recently, The Inheritance. He has worked with some of the best directors in the business—Joe Mantello, Sam Mendes and Stephen Daldry, among others—and found himself looking back on them while working on Plaza Suite. He jokes, “I try to steal from the best.”
Stealing is an overstatement, however—Hickey’s unique perspective as an actor did influence his approach as a director. He says, “I would say the main way my acting experience has helped with my directing has been knowing, or at least intuiting, when to speak, and when to keep my mouth shut. Actors need space to play, to make mistakes, to get to know each other. A good director tries their best to stay out of the actors’ way and let them build a trust between each other.”
Hickey’s approach even applies to actors who know each other intimately: Parker and Broderick married in 1997 and have shared the stage before in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. On stage, this dream-team couple’s connection makes for theater gold: It’s safe to say sparks will fly from downtown all the way to Fenway’s Citgo sign. Hickey adds, “They are two of my favorite actors, endlessly inventive, alive, spontaneous. And even after all they have accomplished, they are still such hard workers, who want to try new things, take on new challenges. They really are amazing to work with, and a lot of fun to watch.
“To get to see this play about marriage performed by these two actors, well, it’s very special.”