Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Barefoot In The Park" Now Showing At The James F. Dean Theatre--An Evening Full Of Laughs

What is it with women wanting their guys to consider the idea of taking off their shoes and running barefoot in the park? Do you know what knichi is? Have you ever heard of Ouzo? Interested in finding out the answers to these seemingly superfluous questions? Then, grab your shoes, on or off, makes no difference one way or the other, and head on over to the James F. Dean Theatre in Summerville from February 5th through the 14th to become enlightened and enriched on these subjects and more by the Flowertown Player's presentation of Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park.

I went into this play an open book. I had not seen the 1963 Broadway production starring Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley, and as far as I can recall, I had not seen the 1967 movie adaptation with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. After 1,530 performances, the 1963 play was nominated for three 1964 Tony Awards, and Mike Nichols won the award for Best Director. A revival opened on Broadway at the Cort Theater in February, 2006 and closed on May, 2006 after only 109 performances.

Barefoot in the Park is a romantic comedy by Neil Simon about looking at the humorous side of the complexities and unknowns of newly-wed life. Conservative Paul Bratter is a young attorney with high ambitions and a meticulous capacity for doing things by the book, which are qualities totally uncharacteristic of his new wife, who is free-spirited, idealistic, and irresponsibly fun-loving. As they end their whirlwind honeymoon fantasy of six days to enter the real world of everyday life, they are in the beginning process of setting up house in a fifth floor apartment of a New York brownstone that Paul has not really seen as of yet. This is her first time away from home and her mother. So, she is inexperienced and concerned about what her mother may think of her new apartment.

It opens with Corie dancing and painting while awaiting the delivery of her furniture and things, which is late, and a phone to be installed. Needless to say, straight-lace Paul will be in for a few surprises on his arrival that will ultimately test their compatibility and convictions. "Six days does not make a week," lamented Corie.

In this Neil Simon work, the hilarity builds incrementally in intensity as each character successively emerges on scene. With just a few laughs here and there in the beginning, once the play got past the mushy kissing and the participants were all in place, the laughter explodes. With an artfully designed and crafted set to work with, Director JC Conway skillfully pulled together a capable group of actors, who were able to build upon their characters in a way where the audience could connect with them.

Lovable Marissa Rocco as happy-go-lucky Corie was full of youthful enthusiasm and imparted to me the feeling that what I was seeing on stage was a genuine reflection of her own personality. As for Joseph Demerly playing Paul Bratter, you can see the growing frustration on his face as he tries to adjust to his problematic living conditions--bathroom without a bathtub, drafty apartment, hole in the skylight, tiny bedroom, and the craziest tenants in the city, and of course, his madcap wife.

Ernie Eliason, not new to portraying zany characters, amusingly played the part of Victor Velasco, the flirtatious and flamboyant 58 year old tenant that lives in the attic of Corie and Paul's New York brownstone, who shamelessly mooches his way into their delicate marital lives and then takes them on a crazy, riotous ride, including Corie's mother, Ethyl Banks--brilliantly played by Susan J. Vinick. Susan, new to the Flowertown Players but not to the stage, from fur coat to kimono, was a delight to watch and nimbly appropriated a generous portion of the evening's laughs.

J. Barry Gordon, a veteran Flowertown Player, put aside his duties as a tour guide and put on the digs of a telephone repairman. He added to the laughs and had a few words of wisdom for the harried couple. To round out the cast, Dustin Lack played the part of the delivery man.

Although, written many years ago and on the cusp of a social revolution, Barefoot in the Park is a love story with a timeless lesson interwoven within its script. While life styles have drastically changed since, the human condition when it comes to relationships remains basically the same. Falling in love can be easy, but staying in love requires hard work and sacrifice, and despite the elating ups and agonizing downs of married life, there is a humorous side to it all and Neil Simon drew on this.

You just might see a bit of yourself portrayed in this play. Served up on a platter of knichi and in a glass of Ouzu, you are guaranteed an evening full of laughs.

Purchase tickets for "Barefoot in the Park."