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Posted by: Kim_Hamilton on 04/27/2009 10:25 PM Updated by: Kim_Hamilton on 04/29/2009 12:20 PM
Expires: 01/01/2014 12:00 AM

‘Barefoot’ is Nothing to Tiptoe Around~by Noella Eastlake

Sonora, Ca… There is a kind of magic in the air that lingers about a newlywed couple even after the honeymoon is over. Somehow, some of that very magic must have rubbed off on the cast of this fantastic number, because there was certainly magic hanging in the air that night. Barefoot in the Park is a delightful comedy that follows a young newlywed couple as they start their new life together after the honeymoon is over. Moving into their small new apartment on the 5th floor of the building, they are greeted by various .....

houseguests which range from a telephone repair man, all the way to the strange and delightful upstairs neighbor (Wait! Aren’t they on the top floor?). But as the honeymoon magic begins to fade this yin and yang couple are in for a rude awakening that not all life is perfect, and even the best things require compromise to make it work.

From the very start, it seems like the only one fully in love with this new life is our bubbly, over-the-top newlywed bride Corie Bratter, played by Michelle Woodall. Entering into the stage, she seems overwhelmed by the sheer joy that the room inflicts. She is not at all winded by the overwhelming 5 flights of stairs (they don’t count the stoop), and for her life couldn’t be better. Woodall’s smile was infectious and her chemistry with husband Paul, played by Rob Smittle, made it easy to be lost in the atmosphere. Her opening day nerves only served to make her character all the more lovable and cute as she stumbled through a few of her speeches, leaving most with the impression she was still the over excited bride high on life.

Smittle, on the other hand, played a brilliant part as the ‘pin-stripped’ shirt lawyer, who is everything the opposite of his doting wife. As though the six flights of stairs (Did I say ‘they’ don’t count the stoop? I mean, Corie…) weren’t bad enough, the heat doesn’t work, there is a hole in the ceiling and the apartment is empty. The only thing good about the apartment is that is lovable new bride is in it. Still, Smittle, effectively manages to show the audience that despite the lack of charm in his new living arrangements, he is willing to make it work for Corie’s sake.

But, as this is a play of hilarious interruptions, we find the doting mother is soon to arrive to examine the new apartment for herself. Ethel Banks does a fantastic job as Corie’s mother, Francine La Meire. Banks’ character is more like Paul, down-to-earth with two feet firmly on the ground. She too takes an instant dislike of the apartment, and while she tries to deny it for her daughter’s sake you can see the underlying worry beneath her skin.

The real show stealer comes from Michael Lynch, who plays the kooky upstairs neighbor Mr. Victor Velasco. The very second he was on stage you couldn’t help but watch him as he shifted from the ‘dirty’ old man, into the lovable crazy guy that occasionally comes and goes by the bedroom window. Lynch is a master of facial expressions, and holding out the devious rascal’s smile for a touch longer than would normally be necessary only added to the laughs already filling the room that evening.

Add in a stop by our delivery man, played last week by Mal Perry, though to be seen in subsequent weeks by Doug Parrish, Albert Barreno, Francis Lynch and John Day for a bit more comedy about the stairs. And of course we can’t forget the unforgettable Al Lemke as the Telephone repair man. Last seen in a bit role (though I personally believe there are NO bit roles in theater) in ‘Our Town’, Lemke once again was a stage stealer and a crowd pleaser. His timing is always excellent and the looks on his face could often bring an audience to tears of laughter.

Still, like all married life, sometimes the sun doesn’t shine and as this play progresses, while the laughs keep coming from off stage, on stage there are lessons to be learned, and lives to live. As our couple grows to learn that life isn’t always as easy as a week at the Plaza, the audience grows to love them for their change and for themselves.

‘Barefoot’ in the park is playing through May 17th at the Stage 3 theater is Sonora, Ca. It is a must see for anyone able to spend a night at the theater and is truly a comedy that will leave you feeling on cloud nine.

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