TR Robertson — Director Jessica Stone, Director of Old Globe’s current play, Neil Simon’s comedy “Barefoot in the Park”, said her main concern was to find “actors who really understand comedy and have it in their bones (from an interview by Danielle Mages Amato) and she has certainly found the right actors in casting the actors and actresses for the play on the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre stage. Simon’s comedy first appeared in 1963 on Broadway at the Biltmore Theatre, making the play and dialog a little dated, but the audience never noticed as the fast paced tempo, quick one-liners and wonderful delivery by the cast left the audience laughing.
Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park” was made into a film in 1967 starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. Redford also starred in the Broadway opening. The romantic comedy was Simon’s longest running hit on Broadway and the tenth longest running non-musical play.
Photos by Jim Cox
The comedy centers around a young newlywed couple who have moved into their first apartment together. The run-down, bare-bones apartment is on the 5th floor of a New York walk-up. Corie is waiting for furniture in the apartment, head-over-heels in love with lawyer husband Paul. Along the way, Corie and Paul will run into an eccentric neighbor, who lives in the attic above them, and Corie’s mother, who visits the apartment for the first time. Corie sees an opportunity to “set her mother up” with the neighbor, which only causes chaos for all concerned.
Director Jessica Stone previously directed “Robin Hood!” at The Old Globe. Her Creative Team included Scenic Designer Tobin Ost, Costume Designer David Israel Reynoso, Lighting Designer Amanda Zieve, Sound Designer Lindsay Jones, Casting by Caparelliotis Casting and Production Stage Manager Libby Unsworth.
A clever set design was used where the apartment walls of the small apartment were built within the theatre in the round stage, about 2-3 feet of the apartment walls showing, giving the appearance, for the audience, that we were looking into the couple’s apartment and their lives. Minimal props for Act I would begin to change in Act II as the couple’s furniture began to arrive. A very clever, magical moment on stage started Act II as Corie swept around the apartment with a fake flower, as though it was a wand, turning a large white painting sheet into a colorful bright red rug, plants began to pop up in the corners, hanging lights appeared, boxes moved and tables popped up with items on the table. Corie even spins around and a colorful 60’s styled dress appears on her, which leads to the arrival of the sofa, buckets of ice coming from the shower and alcohol bottles being taken from the water tank of the toilet and the set for the arrival of her husband, her mother, the eccentric Victor and Corie’s plot to find love for her mother.
Playing the high energy, always optimistic Corie Bratter is Kerry Bishe, making her Old Globe debut. Kerry has appeared in on and off Broadway productions as well as numerous theatrical, film and television productions. Playing her stuffy, nervous, overly concerned Paul Bratter is Chris Lowell. Lowell was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series for his work in “Glow”. The eccentric and very pushy neighbor Victor Velasco is played by Jere Burns. Burns is currently appearing in the TBS comedy “Angie Tribeca”. He has also appeared in numerous films and television shows, including “Justified” and “Breaking Bad”.
An audience favorite is Mia Dillon, who plays Mrs. Ethel Banks. Mia plays the timid, but opinionated Ethel, with flair and she explodes in Act III in a kimono and most amusing situation. Some of her comments are simple, but they hit the mark about ourselves and relationships. Statements like – “I don’t think I’m as young as I think I am” and “Give a little of yourselves for each other” are good insights into how we might look at our own lives. Also on stage for brief appearances is Jake Millgard as the telephone repairman and the furniture delivery man of Act II. As the repairman, he arrives at the beginning when the couple is in the bliss of just arriving from their honeymoon and at the end, when the couple is facing some serious issues.
The couple’s battle with one another as they try to find a happy medium in two lives that appear to be non-compatible is both funny and sad. You can understand Paul’s frustration with a wife who finds an NYC apartment with no bath, no heat, no furniture, a hole in the skylight, a bedroom you have to turn sideways to get in to, no landlord (he’s on vacation) and they are in the dead of an East Coast winter. You also side with Corie who is just trying to make the best of a bad situation and at the same time deal with a mother who is combatively passive with their relationship. This couple needs some common sense understanding of one another and some very emotional maturity. It makes for a very funny, but equally sad situation.
“Barefoot in the Park” runs until Sept 2nd and is great way to look at others problems and get a good laugh. It is playing at the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center. Ticket prices start at $30.00. Tickets can be purchased by calling 619-234-5623 or go to www.TheOldGlobe.org. Also on stage at The Old Globe is Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax” and beginning August 12th will be Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing”.