note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Richard Pacheco
“Barefoot in the Park” is a romantic comedy by Neil Simon. The play premiered on Broadway in 1963 and starred Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley. The play was made into a film in 1967, also starring Redford, and Jane Fonda and is currently playing at Trinity Rep in a splendid production full of energy, and vitality loaded with physical comedy and zippy dialogue brought vividly to life by a winning cast. This was Neil Simon's longest-running hit, and the tenth longest-running non-musical play in Broadway history. The play was nominated for three 1964 Tony Awards, and Mike Nichols won the award for Best Director.
Corie Bratter and Paul Bratter are newly wed. For their first home, they live in an apartment on the top floor (six flights up if you count the front stoop)of a Brownstone in New York City. The newlyweds face the realities of being married with surprise and at times dismay. They get to met some of the odd collection of neighbors, in particular one Victor Velasco, who fancies himself a ladies’ man and Romeo. Corey takes it in her head to introduce her mother, Mrs. Banks in the hopes that at least he will be a distraction for her, perhaps even a romantic interest. The newly weds head out to dinner with the older couple and everything goes crazy as the night transpires.
Charlie Thurston is Paul Bratter, a young attorney who I about ready to face his first case in court. He is also a newlywed and very down to earth, feet on the ground, practical kind of guy his wife calls stuffy. Thurston is a marvel of comic timing in the role, with impeccable delivery and facial expressions He is also brilliant when it comes to physical comedy, recalling people like Dick Van Dyke, Charlie Chaplin and Jerry Lewis. He is a sheer delight to watch in a comic gem of a performance.
Rebecca Gibel is Corie Bratter, the young wife, who is full of dreamy notions about marriage and feet off the ground in an airy attitude which is all centered on what she thinks and believes about the world and marriage. Gibel is a load of charm and energy, full of vitality and spunk. She is confident and self assured. She deftly captures the flightiness of Corie with skill and style.
Gibel and Thruston are a couple offstage as well.
Stephen Berenson is the apartment Romeo, Victor Velasco, who is full of dash and swagger, a smooth talker with an eye towards the ladies no matter what their age may be. Velasco is a gourmet cook and dime store Romeo who flirts with all the women, such as Corie and her mother with equal verve and dedication. He just loves women and isn’t afraid to show it with a flourish and strut. Berenson is a delight, with comic aplomb in his timing and flair. Velasco is inexpensive debonair in his capable hands and loaded with laughs.
Phyllis Kay is Corie’s mother, Mrs. Brooks, a widow who is beginning to feel the ravages of both being alone and getting older that way. She sleeps on a board or she cant sleep and her life it pretty much determined in terms of routine and her own rituals. Kay is wonderful in the role, with comic class and grace, full of the right nuances to make her character both endearing and very funny simultaneously.
There is solid support coming from the other two cast members as well, Uche Elueze as the telephone repairman and George Spelvin as the delivery guy. Both add some nice comic touches with zest and panache.
Director Michael Perlman keeps everything moving merrily along with a swift pace that is impressive and effective.
While the material seems a bit dated, the cast makes it all enjoyable. The long drawn out spat that leads to the brink of divorce seems like a tremendous abuse of time, but the actors make it all so much fun even it the material sags a bit due to its age and perspective.
The Daniel Zimmerman set design is a sheer gem, with moveable apartment walls that vividly create the outside of the brownstone and then glide open to reveal the insides of the apartment.
This is a must see production of comic finesse and excellence. There is so much here that is impeccable you’d be crazy to miss it. It is sheer fun and very well acted. “Barefoot in the Park” at Trinity Rep ” runs through Dec. 21 at Trinity Rep, 201 Washington St., Providence. Tickets start at $46 Call (401) 351-4242, or visit trinityrep.com