Thunder Bay Theatre's current production of "Barefoot in the Park" is practically the definition of an oldie-but-goodie. Written by the legendary Neil Simon, this romantic comedy is entrenched firmly in the time period of the sixties.
While some of its specifics might seem antiquated today (think rotary dial phones and stay-at-home wives), the charm level remains timeless as the audience gets a birds-eye view of what happens when the honeymoon is over.
Newlyweds Corie and Paul Bratter are settling into a space-deprived fifth floor walk-up apartment in Manhattan and negotiating opposing personalities. She's giddy and carefree. He's a reserved and uptight lawyer.
Appearing in Thunder Bay Theatre’s current production of “Barefoot in the Park” are, seated from left, John Martin, Kendra McInerney, Carol Rundell and Richard Mesler. In the back is Nickie Hilton.
Throw into the mix a meddling mother and an eccentric neighbor, and the tension level rises proportionately as Simon's witty writing plays out with warmth and nostalgia.
The whole cast, under the director of TBT Artistic Director J.R. Rodriguez, did an outstanding job highlighted by Kendra McInerney and John Martin as the newlyweds who are fresh off a six-day honeymoon. McInerney is just adorable as she delivers Simon's zingers and his more emotional material that makes her wonder if she's made a mistake marrying Paul.
Likewise, Martin runs with his buttoned-down character's subtle dry humor. Paul is the straight man to Corie's inner wild child. When he lands his first real case and must diligently prepare for court, his wife begins to feel neglected. Why can't he just be impetuous like her and willing to run barefoot in the park in the middle of winter, she asks?
"Barefoot in the Park"
Thunder Bay Theatre
7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday
2 p.m. Sunday
Box office: 354-2267
Then Corie's dowdy middle-aged mother stops in for an unexpected visit. She's one of several who - amusingly for the audience - find climbing the couple's long five flights of stairs, (six if you count the front stoop), a physically exhausting chore.
Carol Rundell exemplifies the mom who tries to buck up no matter what she's asked to endure which at times is considerable since she's prone to ingesting pink pills for her stomach and sleeping on a board for her back. As in most good theatre, by the end of everything, Rundell's well-acted, good sport of a character has realized some positive change in her life.
So too, does Victor Velasco, the bizarre but simultaneously charming upstairs neighbor handled just right by Richard Mesler. His 58-year-old playboy encourages Corie's spontaneity even while everyone is putting up with his rather unusual tendencies. He's inclined to wear a French beret, speak Albanian and inconveniently enter his own apartment by crawling through the window of Corie and Paul's bedroom.
Nickie Hilton takes on a smallish part as the telephone repair person, but it's pivotal. Expertly portrayed, Hilton's character adds quite a bit to the show by bookending the young couple's marital bliss in the beginning and then their marital crisis later in the action.
Even Rodriguez wrings out a few laughs from the audience when he appears on stage, huffing and puffing his way up the couple's steep stairs to deliver a few packages to the newlyweds.
A functional set save a stubborn door that refuses to stay closed, costumes, lighting and other technical aspects helped enhance the total viewing experience. All toll, this sweet ode to young love still resonates today nearly 50 years after it first debuted. It also still carries the same sensible and relevant message that compromise is paramount to a successful relationship.
Remaining performances of "Barefoot in the Park" are this week only, March 24-27. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. For reservations, call the box office at 354-2267.