Friday, June 22, 2018
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Stage West woos theater crowd with 'Barefoot in the Park'

At a time when so many people are simply mad about Mad Men, the television drama that harks back to the 1960s when men ruled and women were expected to exist only to please their rulers, it seems fitting that Stage West Community Playhouse is bringing back Neil Simon's wide-eyed 1963 romantic comedy, Barefoot in the Park.

Mad Men's creator looks back at that time through modern eyes and sees it as less than idyllic. Simon created Barefoot in the thick of that time and sees an eager-to-please young bride as she was supposed to be then — well, eager to please — and her husband as a no-nonsense fellow devoted to his career in law.

It's the perfect nostalgia piece, especially for people who remember that time as "the good old days."

In it, Corie Bratter (Kaela Koch, Maggie in Lend Me a Tenor) and her new hubby, Paul (Patrick Moran, Tito in Tenor), have just come home from their honeymoon to their near-empty walk-up apartment in New York City. Corie, a free spirit — not in a feminist vein, but in a sort of kitten-cute way — is frustrated by her buttoned-down hubby and is determined to make him park his briefcase and loosen up a bit. The staid Paul sees her playful ways as annoying and embarrassing (please, no smooching in the hallway; that's for behind closed doors, he admonishes her).

Even before their bags are unpacked, Corie's shy, sexually repressed frump of a mother, Mrs. Banks (Karen Doxey, Mrs. O'Malley in Funny Girl), makes a surprise visit. The young couple decide that what mum needs is a man, and their bohemian, womanizing upstairs neighbor Victor Velasco (stage newcomer Gary Ammerman) is just the man she needs.

Their seemingly misguided matchmaking is interrupted by a wiseacre telephone repair man (Gary Mooneyham) who can size up the situation in a second. Can Mrs. Banks and her son-in-law let go and have some fun? Can the spunky Corie and the world-wise Victor tamp down their enthusiasm and live life as it comes?

Is life about compromise or is it about control — control of one's self as well as others?

Barefoot, with its happily-ever-after mind-set, has been a tremendous success, playing more than 1,500 performances after its Broadway debut, made into a movie with Jane Fonda and Robert Redford, a TV series and an HBO movie, revived twice on Broadway and staged countless times in community and regional theaters.

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