The Community Players closing production of their 83rd season is Neil Simon's 1960's comedy, "Barefoot in the Park". The show is about newlyweds, Paul and Corie Bratter. After six days of wedded bliss, they move into their first apartment on the top floor of a brownstone on East 48th street in New York City. They continually have to climb six wheezing flights to get there. They also have no furniture, there is not room for a double bed, the paintjob turned out all wrong, the skylight leaks, there's no heat (and it's Febraury), and their bohemian neighbor is only able to access his padlocked apartment via their window ledge. When Paul fails to grasp the romance of their quirky living situation, Corie begins to fear that her new husband is a stuffed shirt. Director Don Gillis directs and blocks this Neil Simon comedy perfectly, creating a 1960's bright yellow apartment and having the cast utilize the whole playing area even the skylight over the apartment set. Bravo on a job well done.
The leading actress, Beth Brooklin as Corie, is an energetic actress who plays the whole spectrum of emotions and can do it in a split second. During the argument scene she runs the gamut from hysterical to angry to sad and back and forth again. Beth is a human dynamo on the stage and her line delivery as this newly married woman is perfect from start to finish. The goulash eating scene is hysterical as is her treatment of Paul and she handles her monologues beautifully, too. Her leading man, Edward Benjamin III, in only his second time on stage, handles the huge role of Paul Bratter with the ease of a seasoned performer. The argument scene is hilarious with each of them running in and out of the bedroom constantly. However Ed's best scene is the final one where Paul returns to the apartment after getting drunk and running barefoot in the park. (He has underwear sticking out of his back pocket and he climbs up to the skylight, proving to Corie that he is not a stuffed shirt. Ed and Beth have wonderful chemistry together, too. They do a wonderful job as this young couple.
The biggest scene stealer in this show is Ellen Barnes Selya as Corie's mother, Ethel Banks. She is hilarious whether she is climbing the six flight of stairs, delivering rapid fire one liners or choking on exotic gourmet food. Ellen is a whirlwind of comic energy and timing. An example of that is when she appears in the final scene in a strange bathrobe and slippers unable to remember what happened the night before. It is definitely a laugh out loud moment. The crazy upstairs Hungarian neighbor, Victor Velasco is played by Eric Barbato. The audience enjoys his womanizing and wacky antics during the show. Another scene stealer is Michael Maskell as the exhausted Telephone repairman. After climbing all the stairs, he is out of breath and tells Corie to be sure never to call him again. However he appears again in the third act in the middle of the couple's deep freeze and elicits many laughs when he answers for them about beer in the refriegerator or having a drink on the job. Rounding out the cast is stage manager, James Clements as a delivery man from Lord and Taylor who can't catch his breath after the stair climb.
So for a fun filled evening and a return to New York in the 1960's, be sure to catch "Barefoot in the Park". A word of praise to Victor Turenne for building the set and a wonderful skylight and to John Ricci for painting the apartment in a 1960's bright yellow which is reflected off the skylight to give the illusion that the floor is yellow, too.