BWW Review: BAREFOOT IN THE PARK at Sharon Playhouse

BWW Review: BAREFOOT IN THE PARK at Sharon Playhouse

On Sunday, July 29, I had the pleasure of seeing Neil Simon's comedy, BAREFOOT IN THE PARK, at the Sharon Playhouse in Sharon, CT. A talented cast of six all brought their A game to the stage, under the wonderful direction of Clayton Phillips.

The story takes place in a New York City apartment, in the year 1962. The set depicts the apartment, with the living room up front, and the kitchen in the back including some windows in the back. The lighting effects create a genuine aura of daytime or nighttime outside of the windows, where appropriate. On stage left there is a closet and two doors, one leading to the bathroom, the other to what became a cramped bedroom. The apartment entrance door is on stage right. When open, characters can be seen ascending the final few steps of what is spoken of as being five flights, six counting the stoop in front of the apartment.

The show opens with Corie (Rebecca Tucker) trying to straighten out the apartment, in anticipation of her husband of six days, Paul (Craig Bryant Belwood), seeing it for the first time. The first person to arrive is the Telephone Man (John Champion) who does an excellent job setting the tone for the stairs being a huge challenge to ascend. John Champion appears genuinely exhausted, totally selling the difficulty of enduring those five flights. The other cast members who would later come up those stairs all share the sentiment of the burden the stairs present, expressing so verbally and through actions, including heavy breathing.

When Paul first sees the apartment, he notices some major problems. While he understands that the furniture has not arrived yet, he finds the stairs to be too much; he notices that it is very cold; there is no bathtub (he likes baths) and there is a hole in the skylight as more cold air comes in on that February day. Corie's attempt to make Paul like the apartment is an initial source of conflict between the couple.

Corie's widowed mother Mrs. Banks (Susan Cella) arrives and also sees issues with the apartment, but is kind about it, trying to encourage and lovingly support her daughter and son-in-law. Corie insists that her mother try to meet a new man, but her mother is resistant of the idea. Susan Cella is amazing in this role, showing strong stage chemistry with the other characters, along with Rebecca Tucker making the mother and daughter relationship between Mrs. Banks and Corie seem so real that it is easy to forget that they are not a real life mother and daughter.

Paul hears rumors about some of the neighbors, including the upstairs neighbor, Victor Velasco (Rex Smith), known for being somewhat of a predator upon naïve women, having been married and divorced numerous times. While Paul is in the bedroom, Victor enters the apartment and starts to hit on Corie. Rex Smith does an excellent job intentionally making the audience (especially married men) despise his character from the start. Corie is naively receptive of what she appears to merely view as flattery, failing to see it for what it is, an evil attempt to steal her from her husband. Corie decides to invite Victor over for dinner the next Friday night, and then remembers that her mother was coming over, but then decides it would make a great blind date, as long as her mother isn't aware she is being set up, until she arrives, an idea that Paul thinks is terrible.

The stage chemistry between Rebecca Tucker and Craig Bryant Belwood is so strong that it totally sells them as a newlywed couple. Their verbal arguments are delivered with authenticity, including their reactions to each other. Their exchanges are captivating and keep the audience fully engaged at all times. They even manage to continue their verbal confrontation, while Corie is merely wearing her bra, panties, and shoes. Part of what makes their fighting seem so genuine is that neither person is clearly right, nor clearly wrong. Rather, we like both characters and see both of their perspectives.

How does the attempt at a blind date between Mrs. Banks and Victor go? Will Mrs. Banks be safe? What are Paul and Corie fighting about? Will they reconcile their differences? What role does alcohol play in the whole ordeal? Will Victor "fall" off the ledge outside the apartment windows and plummet to his death? Come to the show and find out!

With first-rate acting from all the cast members, I highly recommend BAREFOOT IN THE PARK which is scheduled to continue to run at the Sharon Playhouse in Sharon, CT, on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through August 12, 2018. For times and tickets, please go to https://www.sharonplayhouse.org/.

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From This Author Sean Fallon

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