‘Barefoot in the Park’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by September 4, 2016

‘Barefoot in the Park’ is a charming, romantic and very funny comedy, written in 1963 by Neil Simon. Now in his 89th year, Marvin Neil Simon has written more than thirty plays and had numerous Oscar and Tony nominations.

Simon grew up in a poor Jewish area of the Bronx. Growing up in a broken and violent home, Neil found refuge in cinemas, hence his interest in comedy. Simon began writing comedy scripts for Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks and Phil Silvers’ ‘Sergeant Bilko Show’. There followed plays and books, most with strong autobiographical background. In 1991, he won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1991.

This Melville Theatre Company’s delightful production of ‘Barefoot in the Park’ can be seen at the Melville Theatre, on the corner of Stock Road and Canning Highway in Melville.

The hilarious 2 and a half hour performances are at 8.00 pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until 17th September. There is one matinée, at 2.00 pm on Sunday 11th.

 

It is an open stage. The single room acts as the sitting room, dining room, kitchen and storage area. The set constructors (Paul Bray, Trevor Dhu, Rex Gray, Lloyd Hamer) have done well as the script requires a short staircase, pot belly stove, a skylight and a rain effect. When the play begins the flat is empty. There are the pale green walls, a set of stepladders and piles of dust sheets.

In the brief interval at the end of scene 1, the apartment furniture and props had to be installed. Considering the number of items to be moved, three-piece suite, tables, screen and props, the stage team were most speedy and efficient. Well done stage manager, Paul Bray, and his assistants, Trevor Dhu and Erin Gray.

Aaron Smith’s lighting design took us through the various weather patterns and time of day. The lighting was smoothly operated by Vanessa Gudgeon, who also controlled the sound – with accurate sync on phones and light switches.

       After her 6-day honeymoon in a luxury hotel, the passionate, free-spirited new bride Corie (Georgina Hamer) is still filled with romance and so excited about starting a new life in their New York, tiny 5th-floor rundown apartment. There is no lift – just a never ending staircase. Her boring husband, solicitor Paul Bratter (John Gray) trusted Corie to take out the lease, and has yet to see the minute bedsit.

     The door buzzer goes; it is the telephone installation man. After a few minutes, this tall, heavy-set man, Harry Pepper (Paul Bray) staggers through the front door. Another victim of the 5 flights of stairs. He is soon followed by another wheezing delivery man (Trevor Dhu), with a wedding gift from a relative.

     The first telephone call comes from Corie’s widowed mother, Mrs. Ethel Banks (Sharon Menzies) who wishes to call around, see the flat and offer some ‘smotherly’ love. When the eccentric, randy neighbour, Victor Velasco (Rex Gray) who lives in the attic upstairs pops in, Corie thinks that perhaps he would be ideal for her lonely mother. However, the special meal for four turns out to be a nightmare for everyone. Adjusting to married life isn’t so easy!

 

Director, Trevor Dhu, has squeezed every ounce of humour from this play script. The cast had great chemistry. Georgina was excellent as the besotted, fawning wife, and John wonderful as the boring, straight-laced husband. Sharon was great as the mother-in-law that we all dread getting. Rex was at his best as a wonderful aging letch, who thinks that he is still the Casanova of his youth. The two amusing cameos, Paul and Trevor warmed the audience up on the cold night. There was very good pace, plenty of movement and slick delivery of the lines, and yet at times I found myself the only one laughing aloud. Dare I suggest the audience had a problem?

In the ecstasy of her marriage, Georgina performed a short ballet routine that was choreographed by Trevor and Georgina, both of who are professional dancers. This added an original and pleasant touch.

At 50, the play is slightly showing its age. There are a couple of comments that are now politically incorrect, but neither of these points detract from the story, and it has retained its humour well.

This was a full house, so don’t rely upon tickets at the door. Congrats to all.