The current show at Little Theatre of Fall River is Neil Simon's 1963 Tony Award winning comedy, "Barefoot in the Park". The show is about newlyweds Paul and Corie Bratter, he is a brand new lawyer who just won his first case for six cents and she is a hopeless romantic who has leased this high rent apartment. After six days of wedded bliss at the Plaza, they move into an apartment on the sixth floor of an old brownstone which is full of weird neighbors, on East 48th Street in New York City. It is the early 1960's and they continually have to climb six wheezing flights of stairs to get there. They also have no furniture, there is no room for a double bed, the sky light leaks, there is no heat (and it's February) and their bohemian neighbor is only able to access his padlocked attic apartment via their window ledge. When Paul fails to grasp the romance of their quirky living situation, Corie begins to think her husband is a stuffed shirt especially when he refused to take a walk with her barefoot in the snow in a nearby park. Director Jeff Belanger creates a wonderful 1960's atmosphere for this show with his light green walls for the set, the music including "Winchester Cathedral" and "Never on a Sunday" and his costumes, too. Jeff blocks the show utilizing the whole playing area even the skylight over the apartment. He is aided in his task by hard working stage manager, David Tinkham and tech director, Shawn G. Elliott with the multitude of props handled by Janice Farrell and Norene Cruz.
The leading players in this show are played by real life married couple, Roger and Sarah Duarte. (They have been married happily for 11 years and have 2 children.) She is a pretty brunette who plays this free spirited girl who is madly in love with her husband beautifully. Corie wants to talk to him constantly at first. Sarah runs the gamut of emotions in this role, going from hysterical to angry to sad and back again. The goulash eating scene is hilarious and when she pretends to be talking to a mystery man on the phone, Paul discovers it is someone offering her Bosanova lessons.. (I reviewed Sarah in 2006 in "Mrs. Goody", a show her mother Cynthia Mello wrote.) He handles the huge role of Paul Bratter wonderfully. Paul is shocked at the appearance of the apartment but tries to spare Corie's feelings, however later on after all the craziness he explodes into some well handled argument scenes with his wife. Roger's packing scene with putting all his clothes and briefcase into the suitcase is very funny as is the final scene when he returns to the apartment drunk after having walked barefoot in the park. Roger on the ledge of the skylight is a laugh out loud moment as he sings "Shama, Shama" which is "Jimmy Crackcorn and I don't care" in Greek. Their being married spills over into their portrayals, giving the show a realism to it.
The biggest scene stealer in this show is Ellen Barnes as Corie's mother, Ethel Banks. She is hilarious whether she is climbing up six flights of stairs, delivering rapid fire one liners, popping pink pills so she won't vomit the exotic gourmet food they have eaten at the Albanian restaurant on Staten Island. Ellen is a hoot when she runs back into the apartment after being out all night long, wearing a man's bathrobe and slippers and not remembering what happened. The crazy upstairs neighbor, Victor Velasco is excellently played by Bob Gillet. His explaining the exotic food for the party scene is funny as he pops the food in his mouth after tossing it back and forth in his hands. Bob handles this womanizing man and his wacky antics perfectly. Victor tells Corie to flush up because the plumbing in the building is backwards. Rounding out the cast is John Panchley as Harry the telephone repairman who wheezes up the stairs in Act 1 & 3. He listens to the couples bickering back and forth in the last scene and has funny lines about the beer in the refrigerator. (He played the mean Mr. Frost in "Mrs. Goody".) 50 year member of Little Theater, John Cummings plays the out of breath Lord and Taylor delivery man in the first act. A word of praise for the special effects of the snowfall outside the skylight and for the elaborate furniture for the second act. So for an enjoyable evening of a Neil Simon comedy, be sure to catch "Barefoot in the Park" in Fall River, MA.