BAREFOOT IN THE PARKBy: Neil Simon
Granbury Theatre Company
Director –Micky Shearon
Scenic Designer—Hank Baldree
Lighting Designer—Whitney Shearon
Sound Designer – Haden Capps
Costume Designer—Stevie Simmons
CAST (at reviewed performance)
Corie Bratter—Mikki Lewis
Paul Bratter-Bradley McKinney
Mrs. Banks—Angela Burkey
Victor Velasco—Jeff Meador
Telephone Repair Man—Austin Long
Delivery Man—Doug Long
Reviewed Performance: 9/14/2019
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Barefoot in the Park is the classic formula (romantic) comedy. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy and girl get back together again. Corie Bratter is a young, free-spirited woman (think early hippie) and husband Paul is a straight-laced lawyer, who lives life cautiously, and by the book. After a delightful honeymoon of six days at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, they move into a fifth floor walk-up apartment with leaky faucets, no heat, a broken window and a mélange of quirky characters who dwell in the building. Corie imagines life in a picturesque domicile, and domestic bliss, while realist Paul and Corie’s Mother, Mrs. Banks envision a tiny hovel-which is not fit for sufficient living. The title is symbolic. Paul is so conservative and square that he refuses to run ‘barefoot in the park’ with Corie, further contrasting the personalities of Corie and Paul, and providing elements of disruption in the world of wedded bliss. Enter the subplot. Corie’s mother, Ethel Banks has become a bit of a drag. She lives alone in New Jersey, sleeps on a board, and does not live life with much adventure. Corie makes it her mission to find a romantic interest for her Mother, and decides to invite the strange, yet, adventurous upstairs neighbor, Victor Velasco, a man fond of exotic music, and different and unique foods. Naturally, this is the perfect combination for much laughter. This is the exact reason why Mr. Simon is the master of comedic writing.
Director Micky Shearon successfully brought together this small ensemble of characters, who portrayed their roles with fantastic timing, facial expressions, and humor. The overall concept that Mr. Shearon presents to audiences before starting the show is very reminiscent of an old sitcom from the 1960’s. We are encouraged to laugh, and applaud mightily as characters enter and exit, and do something outlandishly humorous in their performance. This was a fantastic idea! At times, I felt as if I was instantly transported to a live studio audience of one of the great sitcoms of the 1960’s (think The Dick Van Dyke Show or The Lucy Show). Now, that’s a great success for the director. Bravo, Mr. Shearon.
Not only did audiences get to sit in the seats (so to speak) in this metaphorical studio audience, we also got the privilege of being able to see “bloopers” as the show went on. Everyone loves a good flub or blooper, but, in live theatre, we do not get the luxury of being able to cut, and go back and do it again. The biggest moment of laughter came in Act 2, when a small prop malfunction started a chain reaction that left the actors playing Corie and Paul with a case the giggles-which really tickled the audience. It seems that laughter is truly contagious. A “repaired” phone cord was broken and pulled untimely from the wall- and then the phone proceeded to ring, as per the script. The actors handled the unplanned flub with grace, and improvised their way through the remainder of the scene. It was most enjoyable. Ah, the joys of live theatre.
Scenic Designer Hank Baldree successfully transformed the proscenium stage of the Granbury Opera House into a less than desirable fifth floor walk-up apartment of the early 1960’s. I was impressed with Baldree’s attention to detail-from the large Frigidaire in the tiny kitchen, to the necessary items of an early marriage, Mr. Baldree truly drew me in to the story, and set the scene. Additionally, if you are familiar with Barefoot in the Park, you would recall that the apartment starts out bare-as the Bratter newlyweds joke that they have not had furniture delivered yet. Once the movers arrive at 3:00 am (in a transition), the stage is magnificently transformed into a living space-just right for Corie’s idea of marriage.
Stevie Simmons designed costumes that were functional and overall reminiscent of the time period. If pressed to comment further about costumes, it would be the first ensemble that Mikki Lewis (Corie) wore in the first part of the production. It seemed a bit too modern for the early 1960’s for me. At times throughout the first act, I questioned whether or not the time period was the 1960’s. However, I pieced together elements of music (Jimmy Gilmer’s Sugar Shack) and elements in the script to deduce that it was in fact the 1960’s. I felt that Ms. Lewis’ boots, and western-style shirt did not scream early 60’s fashion or an ensemble of First Lady Jackie Kennedy. Each of the other wardrobe changes that Ms. Simmons designed were very reminiscent of the 1960’s-including Mother Banks’ quintessential pillbox hat. I absolutely adore fashion of the 1960’s, and really want the world of the production to be full of period appropriate apparel. It truly is the window dressing or icing on the cake.
Mikki Lewis was wonderful in the role of Corie. Through fantastic facial expressions, and an energetic and enthusiastic performance, Ms. Lewis was very believable in the role of the young ingénue. There was some natural chemistry with her on-stage husband, and her Mother. Ms. Lewis provided some of the lighter moments of laughter, and had a wonderful spirit and intensity on the stage.
Bradley McKinney was phenomenal in the role of conventional Paul Bratter. Mr. McKinney definitely played the “straight-man” in the comedy team-pushing audiences to laugh at his misfortunes throughout the story. Everyone loves a little “schadenfreude” in a comedy piece. There was a nice contract with Corie, and some wonderful, honest moments on stage as a harried young newlywed. Often times, it can be difficult not to play for laughs. If you have ever been in a comedy, sometimes the temptation can be great to do this. Mr. McKinney let the humor become very natural and unforced. It was a pleasure to see him on stage.
Rounding out the small ensemble cast was Angela Burkey as Mother Banks, and Jeff Meador as Victor Velasco. Ms. Burkey and Mr. Meador have great allure on stage and truly captivated the audience each time they were on stage. Both took great command of the story, and pushed the audience into many moments of laughter, and situational comedy on stage. Austin Long provided moments of light humor in the beginning and the end of the story. I wonder if Mr. Long will double or triple check the phone cord that he “repairs” in Act 2-to avoid another case of potential on-stage fodder. I can almost guarantee it!
If I am pressed to find aspects of the production that might need some fine-tuning, my response would be minimal. However, some of the transitions in between scenes seemed a little lengthy. I have found as an audience member, that long transitions often break the illusion for the audience and take them out of the moment. However, this would be minimal at best. I am confident that the transitions seem longer due to costume changes, or movement of on-stage set dressings.
This production of Barefoot in the Park is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a satisfying and enjoyable experience. For my first non-musical production at Granbury Theatre Company, I was most impressed. It was fun afternoon at the theater, with a comedy by one of the greats, Mr. Neil Simon. Take a daytrip to Granbury and see this show. You will laugh, and laugh-sometimes that is something audiences desperately need.
Granbury Theatre Company
Granbury Opera House
133 E. Pearl Street
Granbury, Texas 76048
Plays through September 29.
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday Matinees at 2:00 pm
Ticket prices range from $25-$35 depending on seating (Prime: Rows A, B, C, D, Standard or Balcony: Rows CR, E, F, G, H, J, Balcony)
For groups of 10 or more, please call the box office for rates & reservations.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.granburytheatrecompany.org or call: 817-579-0952.