Saturday, February 24, 2018
Stage

'Barefoot in the Park' delights, even as Show Palace dinner does not

Review | 'Barefoot in the Park'

If you go see the Neil Simon comedy Barefoot in the Park at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre — and it is worth going to see, especially for first-timers — you might want to cruise by Burger King or Sonny's Barbecue for a bite before the show and pop into the theater just in time for the curtain to rise.

The summer special show-only ticket is $25, the dinner another $8 (plus tax), but $8 can buy better grub at many nearby eateries.

The 1963 show itself is fun, with a good, well-directed cast, Tom Hansen's meticulously detailed, colorful set, prop master Gina Carr's period touches (a beige princess phone, Danish modern coffee table, etc.) and right-on sound cues. It moves smoothly, with only a few draggy moments that, in fairness, must be said are the fault of the playwright (that Simon does string out some scenes, especially the loud ones), not the cast.

But the new "summer buffet" is, to be as kind as possible, very, um, disappointing. New owner/operators Vicki Marasciullo and Tommy Mara have pared down the highly-praised, sumptuous spreads served for the past 16 years at the Show Palace to something reminiscent of 1950s school cafeteria fare: three items on the salad bar and main course dishes that make dollar store frozen pot pies seem downright gourmet — overcooked beef stew, gooey rice with slivers of grayish ham, lasagna with noodles cooked to mush. You know the situation is gloomy when the best item on the table is cooked baby carrots and broccoli.

So, please, on with the show ...

And pleasant fare it is, with a fine cast and smooth direction by Michael Lundy.

It's the tale of newlyweds Corie (a bouncy Linda Farmer) and Paul Bratter (an adept Tyler Fish), whose new apartment on the fifth floor of a New York City brownstone presents a climbing challenge to everyone except Corie. The out-of-breath entrances of the other five characters provide some of the play's funniest moments.

This holds true for the Telephone Repair Man (Dudley Saunderson, who makes the most of his minor role and earns the audience's approval for it) and Corie's mom, Mrs. Banks (a totally delightful Sherry Churchill), as well as delivery man (Maurice A. Batista). The play is packed with Neil Simon's one-liners, and Saunderson and Churchill get some of the best, adding terrific physical humor and facial expressions that are play highlights.

Pete Clapsis is a delight as the flirtatious, but broke, upstairs neighbor Victor Velasco, who must sometimes take a shortcut through the Bratters' tiny bedroom to his attic apartment to avoid the landlord seeking past-due rent. This is a role that demands exaggeration and braggadocio, and those are Clapsis' forte.

The 50-year-old play is seriously dated — when the Bratters' marriage hits a rough spot, Corie's mom advises her daughter to "give up a little" of herself and "make him feel important" to make things right, guidance that would earn an eye roll from today's young bride. And when Mrs. Banks has an unplanned overnight stay in Victor's apartment, she feels compelled to proclaim her innocence and beg forgiveness of her kids, actions that few adult women would take in the era of Hot in Cleveland or even 1980s Golden Girls, where mature women are, well, mature about such things.

Even so, there are enough laughs and recognizable situations to make for a pleasant two-and-a-half hours of entertainment well worth the $25.

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