Very loosely based on Neil Simon's own relationship with actress Marsha Mason, CHAPTER TWO is a comedy-drama about middle-aged widower and writer George Schneider who hasn't recovered from his first wife's death when he meets and falls in love with middle-age divorcee Jennie Malone. Each one is supported by a friend, George by his brother Leo and Jennie by her friend and fellow actress Faye Medwick, and the action of this two act play rotates between George's apartment and Faye's apartment.
The first act consists largely of getting George and Jennie together. Leo sets George up on several blind dates, all of them dire; at length, however, he meets Jennie and thinks they would be a perfect match. George has no intention of pursuing the matter, but when he misreads a note from Leo he makes a telephone call to Jennie by mistake. Both are intrigued by the other and they agree on a whim to meet "for just five minutes." Needless to say, the five minutes turns into a serious romance and the two decide to marry.
The second act concerns George's meltdown immediately before and after the marriage. Jennie learns from Leo that George had a nervous breakdown after his first wife's death, and he may be even less recovered from her loss than any one has suspected. Leo urges Jennie not to rush into the marriage, but George has set a very early date, and the resulting honeymoon and its immediate aftermath prove disastrous, with a violent confrontation before George leaves Jennie. Fortunately for both, George realizes he really does love Jennie before he even leaves the airport, and the two are presumably reunited in marital bliss.
Simon was originally famous for such comedies as COME BLOW YOUR HORN and STAR SPANGLED GIRL; over time, however, he began to introduce dramatic notes in his work, and these often overshadowed the comic elements. Nothing wrong with that--if it works. CHAPTER TWO opened in 1977 and was a smash hit, running over 800 performances before going on to become a fairly successful film in 1979. But from a contemporary point of view, George, Jennie, and their issues feel a lot more like day-time soap opera than they do a major stage play. Indeed, the main interest in the play is in the subplot, which finds Leo and Faye trying to have an affair and failing in miserably comic fashion. Like most Simon plays, CHAPTER TWO has been very popular with regional and university and community theatre--but it has never received a Broadway revival and given the ho-hum nature of the main characters and the now-it's-funny, now-it-isn't nature of the plot, I rather doubt it ever will. Well crafted, but this is so-so Simon.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer