Playhouse veterans Patty Payne, Jason Ross and Daniel Black join talented newer actors Ross Griffin, Hannah Hays and Kyle Ward in a delightful production of Neil Simon's “Barefoot in the Park.”
Newlyweds Corie (Hannah Hays) and Paul Bratter (Ross Griffin) have just returned from their honeymoon, full of the joy of their love. Corie feels the need for constant physical contact with Paul. He, as a young lawyer, must again focus on his work responsibilities as he moves forward in his career.
The set design by Kathryn E. Cook allows us to feel the starkness of the fifth floor, walk-up apartment in New York City. Corie has selected and rented it by herself. We gasp for breath with Paul as he finally reaches the top of five flights of steps to arrive at his new home. Paul makes a vain attempt to show pleasure at this choice.
In the barren kitchen/living room area, props master Erin Skelley Holderman has placed a refrigerator whose door must be wrenched open or closed with a powerful slam. A ladder and an empty paint can are placed beneath the broken skylight window. We are left to imagine the single bed behind the bedroom door (there will be plenty of room for these love-birds to snuggle). The second door opens to a bathroom without a tub.
Near collapse, as he completes the climb to the apartment is the Telephone Repair Man (Black). He is able to install the ultra-feminine phone before heading down. Problems with the phone (due to its being yanked from the wall) cause another hike to the fifth floor by Black. He tries to make helpful comments when realizing all is not good in the Bratter paradise on this second visit. Kyle Ward, as the Delivery Man, is so out of breath he cannot speak as he arrives with more wedding gifts.
Hayes as Corie uses her wonderfully expressive eyes to let the audience know her excitement at having her own phone, her own apartment and her own husband. Six days of honeymoon have not prepared her for her lawyer husband having to work prior to his first day in court. She has expected that marriage meant he would be focused on her at all times.
Griffin plays Paul as a solid, dependable young man. He looks, analyzes, sees problems and moves toward solutions. He tries hard not to be critical of the way his young wife jumps into life. We share his horror at the selection of the apartment. He makes a valiant effort to be positive, despite his preference for tub baths over showers, and he controls his temper as long as he can.
We meet Victor Velasco (Ross) who arrives with more vigor than the rest. He is used to the stairs, he lives above their apartment. Wait until you see how he accesses his home. Ross clearly enjoys speaking with the accent of Velasco and presenting us with a gentleman who is ever the ladies man.
Payne as Mrs. Banks is near collapse as she “drops in” from her New Jersey home. Those five flights of stairs were omitted when her daughter, Corie, described her newly rented apartment. We have appreciated Payne's talents in a variety of roles over the years. She rises to the demands of this strange role with astounding skill. For those who cherish Patty as part of the Playhouse family, it is a “must see” performance as mother, mother-in-law and object of the affections of Gentleman Velasco.
Britt Hancock has done a masterful job of directing this romantic comedy. “Barefoot in the Park”
opened on Broadway in 1963 with Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley playing the newlyweds. It was made into a film in 1967 with Redford playing opposite Jane Fonda. Neil Simon wrote 30 plays, receiving more Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer. He had the distinction of being the only writer to have four plays running on Broadway at the same time.
“Barefoot in the Park” will continue to have audiences laughing in the Adventure Theater through March 22. The show is rated PG. Performances are scheduled at 1, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m., depending on the date. Call 484-5000 to reserve tickets as soon as possible because they are going fast.