Written in 1977 and set in 1979, Neil Simon’s Chapter Two unfolds in a world with landline phones, typewriters and still-fresh references to Watergate. Simon’s semi-autobiographical comedy was the North Coast Rep’s first production 33 years ago, Now, with NCR Artistic Director David Ellenstein starring in the Simon-esque role of George, a widowed writer who finds love again, Chapter Two is back on the Solana Beach stage. While some of its references are dated, the foibles of adult relationships are not, and this production (co-directed by Ellenstein and Christopher Williams) gets to the heart of second-chance romance. Ellenstein’s sincere performance is complemented by Jacquelyn Ritz’s as the second-chance love, Jenny. Ritz is variously wry and poignant, but always full of spirit. You root for her from the minute she appears.
Supporting players Louis Lotorto and Mhari Sandoval provide the broader laughs, but it’s the rapport between Ellenstein and Ritz that carries this very pleasing show. Their phone calls when they’re just getting to know each other are among the most endearing moments. Marty Burnett’s slick two-apartments-in-one set and Alina Bokovikova’s blindingly bright costumes together take you back to the ‘70s, which for one diverting evening is worth the trip.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat