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‘Barefoot’ on Main Street

Canyon Theatre Guild offers Neil Simon classic 'Barefoot in the Park'

Posted: April 6, 2012 6:00 a.m.
Updated: April 6, 2012 6:00 a.m.

Bella Popa (Corie Bratter), George Cummings (Victor Velasco) and Nancy Lantis (Ethel Banks) in “Barefoot in the Park.”

 

The outfits and attitudes in "Barefoot in the Park" may be from another time (the 1960s) but these things only add to the story's nostalgic charm. And the underlying issues of finding love and making relationships work are as important today as they have always been. When you mix in the brisk pace encouraged by Director Ingrid Boydston, and some very talented actors, the classic play is a delightful walk in the "park" at the Canyon Theatre Guild.

If you don't remember, this Neil Simon comedy centers on newlyweds Paul and Corie Bratter, who move into their new apartment in a five story walk-up building in Greenwich Village. (People gasping for air as they arrive at the front door is a running joke.) Paul is a straight-arrow lawyer and Corie is a free spirit who wants to keep life spontaneous. The apartment is too expensive, needs paint, has bad plumbing and a leaky skylight - all of which provide issues for conflict and humor.

Corie's mother Ethel pays them an unexpected visit and Corie and Paul decide to play matchmaker during a dinner with their eccentric neighbor-in-the-attic, Victor Velasco, who visits them by climbing through their window. Everything that can go wrong, does. Paul doesn't understand Corie, and Corie thinks he is too staid, too boring and needs to loosen up and do things like run "barefoot in the park."

Boydston said she had seen the movie as a young girl and thought it was very romantic - but when she saw it after she was first married, she thought there was too much fighting. And now, after 20 years of marriage, she finds it funny all over again - with the knowledge that love isn't enough to make a marriage work. As Ethel says in the play, "You've just got to give up a little of you for the other."

She added that Neil Simon put in lots of jokes, but there are lots of "ah ha" and "awww" moments as well. "You realize it is so much more," she said.

Boydston said "Barefoot" was originally a three-act play so, done in two acts at the CTG, she told her cast, "You can't stop, you have to ramp it up." And thus the story moves along quite briskly. She also said her six cast members were fun to direct. "I couldn't ask for more giving people," she said.

The set, itself, provides humor - most notably the window, across which Victor (and later Ethel) have to inch to get to and from Victor's attic. But the heart of this production beats through the talent and incredible energy of the cast members.
Bella Popa plays Corie, and I just have to say "wow." First of all, she's cute as a kitten. But she plays Corie with such an endearing, effervescent, slightly naïve style - and with such sweet force - that she becomes the rushing current carrying the story forward.

Patrick Rogers plays Paul with his own kind of force - a more reserved (most of the time) and bewildered kind, that pulls you into his frustrations. He is the perfect counterpart to Corie.

Nancy Lantis plays Ethel with a totally believable age beyond her actual years. I mean, she IS Ethel in movement, inflection and expression, and amazing to watch in that. She is also a hoot, constantly kept off balance by the goings-on and yet somehow providing the clarity that Corie needs when she needs it.

George Cummings plays Victor Velasco with a nebulous "continental" flair that is artful in its presentation and powerful in its onrush. When Victor is onstage, he sweeps everyone else along toward eccentricity-town. And you just want to chuckle every time he rolls those crazy eyes.

Chris Reese plays the telephone repairman, and though he only has a few moments on stage, he steals the show during those moments. This isn't so much through his lines, which are funny in themselves, but more through his presentation. I mean, watching his eyes go back and forth from Paul to Corie, as he waits to see who will step up and retrieve something from the refrigerator, is hilarious.

George Helsens is the delivery man, with even less time on stage, but he still gets chuckles as he passes through.
So, if you need an invigorating and fun vacation from your workaday world, I recommend you see "Barefoot in the Park" at the Canyon Theatre Guild. It's like a shot of B-12.

The play continues on Friday and Saturday evenings April 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, 28. There will be Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. on April 15 and 22.

Tickets are $12 for juniors and seniors and $15 for adults. The Canyon Theatre Guild is located at 24242 Main Street, in Old Town Newhall. Call the box office at (661) 799-2702.

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