Sometimes, theater-goers forget the power of one Neil Simon and the wonderful moments he has given us. Even over the years, his smart and witty words are still as funny as they were back in “the day”. When we think about some of his works such as “The Odd Couple”, “Come Blow Your Horn”, “Lost in Yonkers” and of course, the one that I watched tonight, “Barefoot in the Park”, we can see that despite the passing years and the amazing advances we have witnessed in technology, one can see that the spirit of his comedic writing has survived it all! Simon is hysterical! His words and use of our language convinces us that everyday life is indeed funny, despite the ups and downs that each new day brings us.
In “Barefoot in the Park”, we meet a young couple, Paul and Corie, as they end their 6 days of honeymoon fantasy to enter the real world of everyday “life”. The play opens as Corie (a solid performance by the adorable April Taylor who brings just the right touch to this sweet “Mama’s Girl”) arrives at her new digs, top floor of a New York walk-up to await her furniture and stuff, her phone being installed and her new life as a wife. Paul is a young attorney with a new position and hoping to work his way up the corporate ladder. He does things by the book, a complete opposite of his new bride, Corie, but I am sure you have heard the old expression-“opposites attract”.
Directed by Josh Johnson on the very small stage of the very intimate Oil Lamp Theater in Glenview, this is a two hour and 15 minute evening of solid entertainment. The cast of four, well, I guess we have to add the phone installer as the fifth part as he is funny and adds a lot to the moments that the audience shares (nice job Cody Wimmer, new to the area, but a name I am sure you will see again), is perfect. Casting can be difficult for a show like this. The actors must be able to build their characters in a manner where we, the audience care for them and about them. I fell in love with Taylor as Corie and found myself feeling sorry for Paul (deftly handled by Eric Bays) as he tried to adjust to the zany woman he fell in love with. The woman who told him that sometimes we need to break away from the everyday norm and run “Barefoot in the Park”.
The other cast members were Matthew Bartholomew as their upstairs neighbor, Victor Velasco, a wild character that takes the others on the ride of their lives, including Corie’s mother Ethel Banks (stunningly played by Beth Goldberg, a divine character actress who truly steals your heart). Remember, the timing for this play is the early 1960’s, certainly a far cry from today’s life styles, but as we sit and watch this story unfold and these characters realize what they are experiencing, we see that this easily could be translated to our current way of life. Yes, there would be some differences that just were not possible back then, but all in all we can see that the reason we fall in love is not a simple one. In fact, one can see very clearly that love and two people falling in love is just that- falling. Finding just the right person for just the right reasons (even if they are not really right) is just what happens. This is truly a love story that is filled with a lot of emotion and of course, being a Neil Simon play, a ton of laughter!
For those of you who have never visited The oil Lamp Theater, may I suggest you find a way to fit it on your schedule. Located in downtown Glenview, an easy drive from the city (you can get there by train as well) at 1723 Glenview Road (just west of Waukegan Road/route 43) with free parking, this is a true storefront theater moved to suburbia. The entrance leads you into a lounge bar area where you can talk and eat some nibbles ( great cookies await your taste buds), have a beverage (BYO and they will pour for you) and meet some new friends. The stage is in the “next store” with 54 seats (they are reserved and numbered) and every seat is comfy. Artistic Director Keith Gerth will make sure that your experience is one that you will have fond memories of, and from what I have seen over the years, you will return (and bring friends). Traci Cidlik, the stage manager makes sure that the entire production runs smoothly and without flaw. The scene changes were choreographed to perfection. Bravo!
Thursdays 8 p.m.
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Tickets are $35 and can be reserved by calling 847-834-0738 or online at www.oillamptheater.org
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Barefoot in the Park”