Entertainment » Theatre

Barefoot in the Park

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Jul 8, 2019
A scene from "Barefoot in the Park" at the Granite Theatre through July 21
A scene from "Barefoot in the Park" at the Granite Theatre through July 21  

One of the late playwright Neil Simon's gifts was the ability to create relatable characters dealing with the absurdities of everyday life.

In Granite Theatre's wildly funny production of Simon's "Barefoot in the Park," a newlywed couple learns marriage is closer to a bed of nails than a bed of roses.

Corie and Paul move into a fifth floor walk-up apartment in New York City. There's no furniture, no heat, and to Paul's dismay — only a shower stall in the bathroom — he prefers to take baths.

Corie is a good-natured ditz who doesn't hesitate to store paint cans in the refrigerator. When gifted with a coffeepot, Corie asks if it came with instructions.

Paul is an ambitious lawyer working his first big case. He drinks a lot of hard liquor but doesn't seem to enjoy it. Maybe he's a beer guy at heart.

Corie plans to play matchmaker for her single mother (Mari Enrique) and eccentric upstairs neighbor Victor Velasco (a charming Geoff Blanchette).

Things don't quite go as planned.

Simon's dialogue is funny and a joke about their visitors being exhausted after climbing up the stairs to Corie and Paul's apartment never wears thin.

First time director Judy George has cast her performers perfectly.

Chelsea Mitchell and John Cillino have a sparkling chemistry as Corie and Paul. Mitchell adeptly handles Corie's mood swings, which range from affectionate to hostile as she realizes Paul may not be the right mate after all.

Cillino in particular has sharp comic delivery and gets a lot of laughs as Paul becomes increasingly frustrated with Corie's flightiness.

Enrique is also amusing as a woman who doesn't know quite what to make of her would-be suitor Victor.

Warren Usey ("The Game's Afoot") shines in a minor role as a telephone installer who is baffled by Corie and Paul's relationship.

Set designer David Jepson has created a wonderfully realistic-looking apartment, where all of the action takes place.

Simon wrote "Barefoot in the Park" in 1963 and it still holds up remarkably well, although some of the minor details are a bit hard to swallow. He expects us to believe Corie and Paul are paying only $125 a month in rent? In New York City today, I'll bet you couldn't even reserve a regular parking space for that amount.

And would Corie really permit a near total stranger to escort an elderly woman to New Jersey?

If you can overlook situations like that, then it's relatively easy to accept Corie and Paul's dilemma because Mitchell and Cillino play off each other so convincingly. Corie accuses Paul of being a "stuffed shirt" and wants him to walk barefoot in the park, to live a little and take chances.

Whether he does that or not is a development I won't spoil. Seeing the antics of these harried city dwellers will provide enough amusement for an evening.

"Barefoot in the Park" runs through July 21. Granite Theatre. 1 Granite St., Westerly, RI. For tickets, call 401-596-2341 or visit www.granitetheatre.com.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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