“Men are from Mars, women are from Venus” has become synonymous with miscommunication between couples—and the all-encompassing and often riotous havoc that shortly ensues. Particularly in newlyweds. In the case of Broadway hit “Barefoot in the Park,” it leads to an intoxicated husband skipping wildly in the freezing cold through a neighborhood park in his bare feet!
Neil Simon’s romantic comedy “Barefoot” is a staple of American theater. Premiering on Broadway in 1963, it showcases what each of us have either directly experienced or witnessed: newlyweds living in a small apartment learning to live together for the first time; learning to both love and accept love, while figuring out on which side of the bed to sleep.
“Barefoot” became part of cinematic history when Robert Redford and Jane Fonda headlined an outstanding cast in 1967, and it has since been seen on countless T.V.s and stages across the world.
Being retold so many times and in so many venues, why should one travel to Farmville, Virginia to see Waterworks Players newest take? Simply put: the cast, the crew members and director have put together an exceedingly charming interpretation of this American classic. Each has their own busy life outside of the theater, yet they have spent the necessary hundreds of hours to put together a first-class production.
Mic Townsend, who plays newly-married and reserved Paul Bratter, a role that Robert Redford first made famous both on Broadway and in Hollywood, is a student at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. He is keenly interested in historic preservation and currently works at Twin Lakes State Park.
Marianne Congleton, who plays the gregarious wife–Corrie Bratter–works full-time in administration at Longwood University, where she has been for over a year-and-half. She graduated from Methodist University in 2005 with a degree in Music.
Valerie Wagoner, who plays the mother of Corrie Bratter, is “a full-time homemaker and grandmother.” She and her husband have the “pleasure and responsibility” of raising two “beautiful” granddaughters. She has always worked outside of the home before moving to Farmville four years ago, but according to Valarie: “God had other plans for me here in VA.”
And there are more reasons to see this play: Paul Clamp as irascible Victor Vasco; Jimmy Mello as the dog-tired Telephone Man and Ed Kindman’s brief part as the Delivery Man.
But maybe the most important reason to see “Barefoot in Park” is the very reserved director himself, Jordan Whiley.
This first-time director was actually the one who chose the play. “I picked it partly out of familiarity, since it is my first attempt at directing a show,” says Jordan. “I remember watching an HBO special of a production of ‘Barefoot’ when I was 10 or 11, and it left an impression on me.”
Jordan says it was hilarious, which was important for maintaining his attention as a young, teenage boy. On a deeper level, Jordan notices that “Barefoot” addresses the most universal and timeless theme of all—love–the kind of love that exists not because of what someone does, but in spite of what they do. He mentions that he didn’t totally understand this theme as a tender 11-year-old, but the theme did resonate with him—because 30-years later, the show still holds a place in his heart and mind.
While arguments and petulance abound, “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus” and “Barefoot in the Park” have also become synonymous with “making up.” There are no profound world-shaking conflicts in this play, as we will be cinematically bombarded with this summer. There are no future dystopian societies. There are no Zombies. (And not one national monument destroyed.) There is only one of America’s most-beloved romantic comedies being delightfully retold by the Waterworks Players.
As mentioned, this is Jordan’s directorial debut, and he notes that his biggest obstacles through this whole process were his own “doubts and fears.”
Let’s see how the new director meets the newlyweds!