Wednesday, December 13, 2017
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'Barefoot in the Park': Sit back and enjoy this Stage West production

If you are a fan of the TV channel Nick at Nite and/or cultural nostalgia, Neil Simon's charming comedy Barefoot in the Park is right up your alley — or, more accurately, right up your six flights of stairs. Its supportive, sacrificing housewife-at-home sensibility is as dated as The Dick Van Dyke Show, but its clever one-liners and recognizable, endearing and enduring characters (note the guilt-inducing mother) make it just as much fun.

Barefoot plays today and Friday through May 20 at Stage West Community Playhouse.

The 1963 romantic comedy takes place in a sixth-floor New York City walkup, where newlyweds Corie and Paul Bratter (a spunky Kaela Koch and seriously charming Patrick Moran) are working out their differences during their second week of marriage. She thinks he's a stuffed shirt too devoted to his career as a fledgling attorney; he thinks she's unreasonably demanding of the attention he needs to devote to his new job.

The running (panting) joke, very well executed by director Terri Marwood's capable cast, is the difficulty of climbing those stairs. It exhausts telephone repairman Harry Pepper (a scene-stealing Gary Mooneyhan) and almost does in Corie's 50-ish mom Mrs. Banks (a consistently hilarious Karen Doxey).

The Bratters' arguments are interspersed with visits from Victor Velasco (Gary Ammerman), the flamboyant, aging Lothario upstairs, who helps Corie decorate the apartment, as well as entertain her mom.

A big joy of this production is that the cast and crew are so well prepared and confident that the audience really can sit back, relax and enjoy without the anxiety that less ready-to-go production companies can sometimes induce.

The pacing is just right, and every performer is on the mark, with never a hesitation. The sizable crew makes sure that lights (Daniel Washington) and sounds (Carol Ballard) are precisely on cue. Set builders Sig Stock and crew did a great job with Ms. Marwood's design, creating the feel of the unconventional Corie's decor preferences without letting the backdrop overwhelm the story. Note especially the big skylight that is almost a character in itself.

One might quibble with the apparent decision not to use body microphones, forcing the players not trained in voice projection to shout some of their lines, but, even so, at least 95 percent of the script could easily be heard in the back rows.

That said, Stage West's Barefoot in the Park is a pleasing 2 1/2 hours of light, grownup, guilt-free entertainment with many laughs and smiles.

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