The current show of Trinity Rep's 51st season is the 1963 Tony Award winning "Barefoot in the Park" by Neil Simon. The show follows the lives of two newlyweds, Corie and Paul Bratter as they start their lives in a 5th floor Brownstone walk up on 48th Street in New York City. They continually have to climb up six wheezing flights to get there. They also have no furniture, there is no room for a double bed, the paint job is all wrong, there's no heat and it's February, and their bohemian neighbor is only able to access his padlocked apartment via their window ledge. What results is a shimmering tale of two people coming to terms with loving each other for who they are, and accepting each other for who they are not. When Paul fails to grasp the romance of their quirky living situation, Corie begins to fear her husband is a stuffed shirt. Director Michael Perlman directs and blocks this 1960's Neil Simon comedy perfectly. He obtains astounding performances from real life engaged couple Rebecca Gibel and Charlie Thurston, who play opposite each other for the first time since officially joining the Trinity Rep resident acting company last season. This terrific comedy receives the thunderous standing ovation it so richly deserves, making it one of the must see shows of the season.
"I am drawn to the characters in this play," notes director Michael Perlman. "Simon's language works so well. He creates a space to investigate these people to find their humanity and discover what makes them relatable". Perlman makes Rebecca and Charlie delve into these two characters and bring their emotions to the surface in jubilant performances, capturing the hearts of the audience. Michael also did a marvelous job directing "Veronica Meadows" last season at Trinity Rep. The gorgeous inside and outside facade of the brownstone apartment set is by Daniel Zimmerman while the lovely 1960's costumes are by Toni Spadafora. Daniel creates the outside of the building with a ledge that Charlie performs a phenomenal pratfall on. It slides off when the interior scenes begin. The leading lady, Rebecca Gibel is an energetic actress who plays the whole spectrum of emotions and can do so in a split second. She enters gangbusters in the first scene and runs the gamut of emotions as Corie especially in the argument scene where she goes from hysterical to angry to sad with impeccable timing and finesse. Rebecca's line delivery as this newly married woman is splendid and the goulash eating scene is hilarious as is her treatment of Paul. She also shines in her monologues and is one of the best Corie's I have ever seen.
Her leading man,Charlie Thurston does a terrific job with his portrayal of this harried newly wed man trying to please his young bride. His entrances into the apartment are performed with some astonishing pratfalls and a split. He also tumbles over the sofa and under the coffee table, reminding you of a modern day Dick Van Dyke. Their argument scene is serious at first and then hilarious with Rebecca crying and Charlie trying to sleep on the sofa only to have it snow on him. During the drunk scene he keeps chasing her around the room and never catching her. Paul finally gives in to Corie's begging him to try new things, by finally running through the park barefoot in the freezing cold and climbing onto the ledge to declare his love for her at last. She joins him on the ledge as they joyfully reunite as "Can't Help Falling in Love with You" plays at the close of the show. Rebecca and Charlie have marvelous chemistry onstage as well as off, capturing the essence of these characters, creating a fun filled comedy for audiences to savor and enjoy.
Phyllis Kaye is magnificent as Ethel Banks, Corie's mother. She steals many a scene whether she is climbing the six flights of stairs, delivering rapid fire one liners or choking on the exotic gourmet food. Phyllis' comic timing is divine especially when she comes to after Paul carries her up the six flights of stairs and also when she appears in the final scene is a strange bathrobe and slippers unable to remember what happened to her. The crazy upstairs Hungarian neighbor, Victor Velasco is excellently played by Stephen Berensen. His funny accent is hilarious as are his womanizing ways and wacky behavior. The eating of the gourmet food is hysterical and boosting Corie up to fix the radiator while giving her a cheap feel is, too. Stephen and Phyllis' crazy antics won many laughs all night long. Rounding out the cast as the beer loving telephone repair man is Uche Elueze who wins laughs when he installs the phone in Act 1 and repairing it in Act 3. So for a fantastic Neil Simon comedy that is as fresh now as it was back in 1963, be sure to catch "Barefoot in the Park" at Trinity Rep. You will definitely leave the theater laughing uproariously. Tell them Tony sent you