BY: JESSICA SCHILLING
PHOTOS: JEREMY KUHN
If you’re looking for a night of laughs and a flash back to a more “groovy” time, you’re in luck! Grand Rapids Civic Theatre’s Barefoot in the Park is set in New York City in the 1960s. This Neil Simon play follows newlyweds Paul (David Hatter) and Corie (Lexee Longwell) in their first weeks of marriage . . . with all the challenges that come with living together, moving into a new apartment, and the “work/life” balance!
If you’re married, or living with your significant other, think back to that first week or two together – you had to agree what went where, adjust to each other’s schedules, and learn how to make do with what might not be ideal conditions! Paul and Corie play out on stage how a young couple meets these unexpected issues head on . . . not always so gracefully, much to the audience’s entertainment!
Corie is a free spirited young woman who never met a stranger – and she married straight laced “stuffed shirt” Paul, a new attorney trying to make a name for himself. The two couldn’t be more different, which only adds to the regular newlywed excitement. The play opens with Corie excitedly entering their new apartment and letting in the phone company representative to install a phone (yup – a cord to the wall rotary dial phone!!), and the laughs start immediately! Their New York apartment is on the top floor – six flights of stairs, if you count the stop – leaving Paul, Corie, and their guests winded by the time they reach the top! Corie sees the whole apartment and everything that goes with it (including the “coziness”) with rose colored glasses, while Paul is not so sure about the bedroom (they have to turn in unison the bed and room are so small) or the “fresh air” that their top floor skylight provides.
Paul and Corie were spot on in their roles, and their counterparts really made the show complete. Nancy Wagner plays Corie’s mother and had this blogger rolling in the isles! Her line delivery is perfection and motherly advice is as real as it gets. Corie’s mother is a “good sport” to all the shenanigans that go on around her, including the six flights of stairs she must hike to reach her daughter’s apartment and . . . wait for it . . . a surprise blind date that Corie arranges for her with their eccentric neighbor! Neighbor, Victor Velasco (played by Don VandenHeuvel), intrigues the adventurous Corie, and frustrates Paul with his bizarre action, like going through their bedroom window to get to his apartment in the attic to avoid the landlord!
The whole show emphasizes metamorphosis – from the apartment to relationships, Simon’s writing speaks to it all. The show starts with an empty shell of an apartment that is hard to see the beauty in, but by the end the couple has decorated it and made it a cozy abode with their special mark on it. Similarly, the relationships are changing on stage; learning and growing into their new lives . . . all with the undertones of humor and real life drama we can all relate to. Neil Simon is known for writing actual events from his life and those of his friends into his works, making it more believable and making the people more relatable.
No spoilers, but in the second act I promise you will laugh and laugh some more, you will relate to the trials and tribulations of a relationship fight, and you will walk away having enjoyed feeling connected with a different place and time. My group all had the same remark as we left, “that was just fun!” Barefoot in the Park runs through the end of January, so you still have time to see it and enjoy it for yourself!
To grab your tickets: http://www.grct.org/events/barefoot-in-the-park/