Take a break from the summer heat as the Waterworks Players invite you to join them for a few wintry days in a tiny New York apartment as they perform Neil Simon’s Barefoot In the Park. This classic romantic comedy premiered in 1963 and became Simon’s longest-running hit and one of the longest running plays in Broadway history. Its success continued with a 1967 film starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, and a Broadway revival in 2006.
While the play follows the life of newlyweds Paul and Corie Bratter for only a few days within their first two weeks of marriage, the performance carries the audience through both the highs and lows of married life. It is at times lighthearted and quirky, other times outrageously silly, and yet it still manages to touch upon those difficult and sometimes painful adjustments familiar to anyone in a romantic relationship.
The cast is a mix of veterans and newcomers to the Waterworks Players. Michael Townsend makes his debut on this stage as the reserved and thoughtful Paul, struggling to make a name for himself as a young lawyer and learning how to be married to his free-spirited wife. The character of Paul is frequently the comedic straight man amid the absurdities of the play, and Townsend rises to the challenge.
Many of those comedic moments come from the other male characters in the show. Ed Kinman makes a brief comical appearance as a delivery man, thoroughly winded by the many steps up to the Bratter’s apartment. Jimmy Mello’s appearance as a telephone installation and repair technician is also brief, but his delightfully comic portrayal leaves the audience wanting more. Paul Clamp consistently elicits chuckles and smiles as Victor Velasco, the Bratter’s odd upstairs neighbor who wishes he were ten years older because “dirty old men get away with so much more.”
It is the women of this show, however, who truly shine. Marianne Congleton and Valarie Wagoner are both veterans of the Waterworks’ stage and they bring two thoroughly charming and entertaining performances to this production. Congleton completely inhabits the role of Corie, both as an adventurous and optimistic free spirit and a deeply emotional young bride. Wagoner, as Corie’s prim and proper mother, manages to give a performance that is flamboyant, absurd, and completely endearing as she opens herself up to finding her own bit of adventure.
This production of Barefoot in the Park is the directorial debut of Jordan Whiley, a recognizable face in Waterworks Players’ productions. Whiley has not only managed to elicit admirable performances from the cast, but he has also managed to lead a team of dedicated volunteers to transform the stage into a believable studio apartment, complete with a skylight and running water.
Performances of Barefoot in the Park are scheduled at 8:00 pm on June 14, 15, 21, and 22 at the Waterworks Theater, Industrial Park Road, Farmville. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased by calling the box office at 434-392-3452 or visiting the web site at https://waterworksplayers.org/buy-tickets.