Entertainment » Theatre

Barefoot in the Park

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Dec 1, 2015
Marisa Gold, Sheriden Thomas, and Tom Shoemaker star in 'Barefoot int he Park,' continuing through Dec. 12 at the BCA
Marisa Gold, Sheriden Thomas, and Tom Shoemaker star in 'Barefoot int he Park,' continuing through Dec. 12 at the BCA  (Source:Earl Christie Photography)

Moonbox Productions has nailed the spry wit of Neil Simon with its presentation of "Barefoot in the Park," playing through Dec. 12 at the Boston Center for the Arts.

Director Allison Choat helms this production, which is visually inventive and viscerally appealing, thanks in large part to the cast. Marisa Gold plays the spirited, fun-loving Corie, who is all aglow at having recently become the new Mrs. Bratter. Her husband, Paul, is played by Tom Shoemaker. Their connubial bliss is strained, and then shattered, by life's dingy realities: Their apartment is cramped and drafty, Paul works long hours at a law firm, and even though Paul and his mother-in-law (Sheriden Thomas) get along well, mother and daughter must tread carefully ignored not to step on one another's hot buttons.

But mother-daughter tensions have nothing on this hot-blooded pair when Corie starts feeling as cramped by Paul's meticulous approach to life and work as Paul feels by the apartment, which Corie selected on her own, oblivious to its faults due to her sunnily optimistic -- and somewhat frivolous -- mindset. Drunken spats ensue, intensified by the unsettling presence of Victor Velasco (Phil Thompson), the upstairs neighbor, who seems -- given his destitution and his colorful past -- to fall somewhere between a garrulous barfly and the so-called Most Interesting Man in the World from those beer commercials.

Tom Shoemaker, Phil Thompson, Sheriden Thomas, and Marisa Gold  (Source:Earl Christie Photography)

Simon's play has not aged well in every respect; tropes that audiences in the late 1960s might have found hilarious, such as the way people gasp for breath after climbing five flights of stairs, or annoying neighbors who use the bedroom window to gain access to their own apartments due to unpaid rent, have little intrinsic humor now (if they ever did). The unlikely, and contrived, romance between Victor and Corie's mother is also problematic in the cold light of day.

That's where the cast's infectious enthusiasm (and some razor sharp timing) come in. James Bocock has far too small a role here as a furniture delivery guy, but he makes his time on stage count. The same is true of Andrew Winson as a telephone repair man who is on hand to offer some poignant and sympathetic words.

But its the core foursome who really bring the play to life, bringing such energy and investment to their parts that you forget the story's creaky joints and marvel at this production's comic suppleness. The set, by John Paul Devlin, is a character in its own right, with a greenhouse-style window that offers a glum view of the city and also serves as the focal point for some physical comedy late in the show. (It also gives lighting designer Jeffrey E. Salzburg some extra opportunity to show off his skills.) Sound designer Dan Costello and Music Director Dan Rodriguez create an auditory texture that places us in New York in the 1960s -- a place and time specific to this material.

"Barefoot in the Park" continues through Dec. 12 at the Boston Center for the Arts. For tickets and more information, please visit http://www.moonboxproductions.org/barefoot

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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