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Review: Barefoot In The Park at Playcrafters

My reaction to Playcrafter’s announcement that their opening production of the season would be Barefoot in the Park? Yawn. Is there a community theatre in the country that hasn’t produced this ubiquitous script of Neil Simon multiple times? A Wikipedia entry I found stated that “According to theatre historian Jordan Schildcrout, ‘Most critics noted that Barefoot in the Park has 'a dime-a-dozen premise [and] virtually no plot' and 'is about nothing at all'. But they also praised Simon as a 'highly skilled professional writer' who used this simple dramatic situation to create 'one of the funniest comedies ever…”
Okay, if there’s anyone out there who doesn’t know what Barefoot is about the action takes place in the tiny garret apartment of Corie and Paul Bratter a newlywed couple just coming off their six day honeymoon at The Plaza Hotel in New York City. Corie is an effervescent free spirit; Paul is a stuffy just-off-the bar-exam lawyer – the consummate manifestation of the theory that opposites attract.

Corie is anxious to divert her strait-laced doting mother’s attention from her and Paul and decides to set mom up on a blind date with their bon vivant neighbor, Victor Velasco. Hilarity ensues fueled by exotic food and free-flowing Ouzo. Returning home, Paul and Corie erupt into a nuclear explosion level of a fight leading Corie to realize they have nothing in common and demanding a divorce. And THAT, I believe, is why this script is so popular. It’s the highly relatable “first fight” all married couples experience. The spark to the conflagration may differ, but we all have them. But, of course, the young couple reconciles once they realize their differences are actually the cement to their relationship.

Director Adam Lewis has assembled a celestial cast starting with the petite, cute-as-a-button, Sarah Walton, as Corie, and the titanic – I’m guessing he’s close to 6’ 4” tall – Will Crouch as Paul. Both are seniors at Augustana College with impressive resumes, their acting chops are gargantuan, and their physical contrast only serves to enhance the contrast between Walton’s bubbly Corie and Crouch’s staid Paul. Their onstage chemistry is atomic. Mirroring Paul and Corie are Alexa Florence as Corie’s mother, Ethel, and the amazing, new-to-Playcrafter’s, Jake Ladd, who plays the eccentric Victor Velasco to perfection. Rounding out the cast are Jim Strauss as the delivery man and Thayne Lamb, as the telephone repairman and whose portrayal personifies Konstantin Stanislavski’s assertion that: “There are no small roles, only small actors.”
Even if you have seen this play before, I guarantee you will thoroughly enjoy this fresh and engaging dust off.

Barefoot in the Park continues at Playcrafters Barn Theatre, 4950 35th Avenue in Moline Friday and Saturday, February 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, February 19 at 3pm.