After more than 20 years of marriage, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick are starring in a play together for the first time since their wedding.
The couple is trying out a new production of legendary playwright Neil Simon's "Plaza Suite" in Boston before the play heads to Broadway next month. Parker and Broderick agree that working with their spouse doesn’t make reinventing the classic comedy any easier.
“This feels very much its own unique, brand new experience because we're working on something from the very beginning,” Parker says at the Emerson Colonial Theatre before a rehearsal. “And it's like walking into a room with a brand new colleague. It's all possibility and all potential.”
Broderick says making the parts their own has been a fun, laughter-filled experience. Taking the stage with his wife for the first time in decades feels like working on any other play, he says.
“If you're married, you're best friends or whatever. When you start rehearsal, you're kind of strangers in a way,” he says. “You don't really know what the other's gonna bring to the part or what you're going to bring and you have to meet and figure out how it all goes together, how it marries.”
“Plaza Suite” tells the story of love and marriage for three couples played by Parker and Broderick.
The first play chronicles a marriage that appears on the verge of ending. The way this traditional couple handles their marital crisis is “very much a product of their generation,” Parker says.
The husband works, the wife stays at home, Broderick says. Things have changed since “Plaza Suite” premiered on Valentine’s Day in 1968, but Broderick says even plays written in the Middle Ages speak to abiding relationships and interactions between humans.
This play marks Broderick’s sixth time in a production written by Simon, a three-time Tony winner who also received a Pulitzer Prize. He starred in four Simon plays and two movie adaptations.
Broderick says he’s been drawn to Simon’s work from watching “The Odd Couple,” a TV show based on a play by the same name, to doing the playwright’s scenes in acting school. He doesn’t quite know how it happened, but he feels “lucky” to have worked with Simon so many times.
“He'd be very helpful if he was here, too,” Broderick says. “It would be wonderful to have him, truthfully.”
Simon died of pneumonia in August 2018 at age 91. Audiences meant a lot to Simon, and Parker believes witnessing the audience’s “delight” and reactions to this play would make him happy.
“There's a reason we wanted to be in Boston. It's the role that Boston has traditionally played in the road to Broadway,” she says. “They are discerning, smart audiences. And there's a reason Neil wanted to be here.”
Parker says theater is “an actor’s medium” — no one edits your performance, no one interprets your work months after filming dozens of takes.
Though the experience of filming movies and television cannot compare, she says there’s an added risk to live performance.
“It's equally as heartbreaking when it isn't working,” she says. “To be on a stage and not have a reaction from an audience is as painful as is the extraordinary. So it's a massive gamble.”
On screen, Parker played iconic sex columnist Carrie Bradshaw in HBO’s “Sex and the City.” Looking back on the show, she says the dramedy’s portrayal of friendship between four women “changed the way television looked at female relationships and sexual politics.”
Parker sees the impact of the show in the real world, too.
“When I walk down the street now, I see groups of four women or I see on Sunday, groups of four or five women sitting and having brunch,” she says. “And I recognize that as some tiny little thing of those friendships and the idea of your friends are your family and the kind of commitment and investment you make in those relationships.”
For Broderick, people still approach him to ask if it’s his “day off” — though it happens less now than when “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was released in 1986.
The long-lasting legacy of the film is thanks to director and writer John Hughes’ “great simple idea” that still resonates with audiences today, he says.
“I remember he had kind of a mockup of the poster before we even made the movie, which said ‘leisure rules’ on it,” he says, “that a teenager could like leisure in a sort of adult way.”
After 40 years of acting, Parker and Broderick both still face nerves before taking the stage.
“The truth is it just means you just still care,” Parker says.
This segment aired on February 18, 2020.