It’s nostalgically amusing to go back in time to the 1960s – especially when re-visiting the classic NeilSimon comedy, Barefoot in the Park. This light but honest look at the lives of two young newlyweds, barely seven days out of their honeymoon, brings back memories of the ways things were to many in the audience who were also young a half-century ago.
Corie and Paul Bratter are barely married and in the midst of moving into their fifth-floor walk-up Manhattan apartment. At $125 a month rent back then, this is truly a renter’s dream – even if the roof’s skylight leaks into the living room; the bedroom has only enough room for a mattress and bedsprings; and the radiator doesn’t offer much heat on these frigid February days.
Ebullient, upbeat but naïve Corie paints her own positive spin on the mis-adventures the couple endures. After all, she is married, (every girl’s goal for her mid-twenties at the time) to the handsome, quieter lawyer-of-her-dreams, Paul, whose realistic attitudes about both his home and his new job make him nervous and jittery.
Chemically Imbalanced Comedy’s production of Barefoot in the Park is set in a small, tightly squeezed apartment setting. Corie, played with grandiose, but infectious innocence by Sarah Rose Graber and Paul, played with the sincere, sometimes frustrated outbursts of actor Eric Bays, are a fine-tuned match of a young couple coping with people, places and things beyond their control.
Each of the small five-people cast stands out in their roles. Corie’s single mother (Laura MacGregor) is her opposite – quiet, more methodical and non-intrusive. She is the ultimate peace-maker, unlike many mother-in-laws we all know.
Her polar opposite in men, Victor Velasco, lives somewhere in or on the building. He doesn’t pay rent, so it’s safe to assume he’s a squatter. We’re never quite sure of his background as he seems to be a man of mystery until the play’s ending. He dresses in weird plaid suits and speaks English with undefined but amusing accents. Victor (Gary Murphy) is set up on a blind date with Corie’s mother – and somehow they go “missing.”
The fifth wheel in the play, the caring telephone repairman for the “Princess” phone, is Dennis Schnell. He turns up frequently to repair the telephone lines – always out of breath like the other characters from walking up those enormous five flights of steps.
The ensemble cast is masterfully directed by Josh Johnson, who is making his official debut withChemically Imbalanced Comedy. DJ Reed’s costume designs are ‘right-on’ realistic with the look and feel of the 60s.
I love the retro memories of the ‘60s I lived through – and the doo wop music playing in the background brings me down Memory Lane with a smile. It was easy to laugh at the Bratters’ painful first trials (and final tribulation) at married life, made easier by the flawless humor writing of Neil Simon.
Chemically Imbalanced Comedy, 1422 Irving Park Road, Chicago, IL60613 (773) 865.7731
In its' eleventh year, Chemically Imbalanced Comedy has been bring the best and the brightest emerging talent to Chicagoland,and features sketch, plays, stand up and short films all in the style of comedy.
Photos: Nick Quinn and Bruce DeViller