Reviewed by Jon R. Coggins
Autumn said goodbye and winter stamped its chilly feet as Flint Community Players continued their 90th season with the Neil Simon standard, Barefoot in the Park.
The slightly sparse crowd (come on folks – cultural institutions that aren’t supported well will eventually fade away) enjoyed this gentle comedy directed by Bill Kircher.
The story is easy – two lovey-dovey newlyweds take a sixth floor walk-up apartment to begin their lives together. Comedy ensues! The set was a Steve Munsell creation and as always, it was wonderful and useable. The smallness of the space, bare as the play started, conveyed the cramped quarters the couple must deal with – from the bedroom that barely fit the bed and nothing else to the bathroom that had no tub. And of course, the six, or is it five, flights of stairs was a source of constant amusement.
The cast was up to the challenge Thursday night anchored by Samantha Tadajewski as Corie Bratter, the female half of this intrepid couple. She was on point all night. Her range of emotions ran from deliriously happy to drunken to dismay, as it seemed her new life might be falling apart. Tadajewski pranced and fussed – happy as a clam in her new apartment. And, she was the only one not complaining about the six flights of stairs. She had to deal with a telephone repairman (Brett Beach), an upstairs Lothario, Victor Velasco played by Larry Stecco, and a deliveryman (Jalen Gillum). Eventually, Samantha’s rather conservative widowed mother, Ethel Banks arrived played by stage vet Mary Smith Powers. All very different characters, and all interactions handled well by Miss T. Her vivaciousness is reminiscent of Mary Tyler Moore from the early ‘60s Dick VanDyke Show.
As Corie deals with all the commotion and eagerly awaits the furniture delivery – her beau finally comes home – for the first time – and she is happy, frisky and eager to start their married lives. Philip Kautz plays her beleaguered spouse, Paul. An uptight new lawyer, preparing to try his first case, Kautz played the role well with nearly opposite feelings from those of his new wife. Paul was discontented with the multiple stair climb, with the smallish apartment, with the tiny bedroom and with the lack of a bathtub. Though he seemed eager to be a newlywed, he was distracted and concerned about his new job. Nice work, Philip.
As Ethel Banks, Corie’s mom, Mary Smith Powers was wonderful. Her expressions of disbelief at the apartment, and her reactions to the “climb” were priceless and provided some mellow comedy. Indeed her entrance after a night of partying was the hit of the show. We’re not sure what accent Powers was going for – upscale educated New Yorker, Brooklynite or Jewish mother – but it was intriguing and only emerged when Ethel got emotional or preoccupied. Well done.
The distraction, for Corie and Ethel appears the upstairs (attic) womanizer – Victor Velasco. Oddly enough, he must use the couple’s bedroom window to access his attic apartment. Played well by Stecco, Victor was charming, eccentric and a bit of a horn dog. His scenes with Tadajewski were wonderful with tremendous chemistry. His scenes with Ethel were warm, touching and gracious. The scene between Corie and Victor, after a night of drinking, was brilliant and electric.
Additional cast members due more mention include Brett Beach as the beleaguered phone repairman who, in barely besting the 6 floor climb – twice – allowed for some comedic moments and a bit of marriage counseling. Deliveryman Jalen Gillum had no lines but espoused his discomfort in the climb with a breathless entrance and pantomimed package-signing instructions. And star stage manager Dave Collins made a cameo as Mr. Munshin the landlord.
There was some slight confusion as one tried to place the time period. Written and produced in the 1960s, some of the music was definitely not from the sixties. Additionally, I don’t think Corie would have worn blue jeans – modern blue jeans – even as a free feeling girl from mid-century. Capri pants maybe?? The play was long with two intermissions. I thought about how to shorten the length. The first intermission was needed – to change the set, and the second to relieve sore backsides. Quicker cue pickups – maybe. It seemed pretty tight. I guess sometimes the play is long. In keeping with the tremendous legacy of FCP productions, Director Kircher did a fine job and presented a quality show.
So if you’re looking for an alternative to soggy football and/or gruesome deer hunting or just want to take in a great show – Barefoot in the Park continues through November 18 at the Tom & Bea Nobles Performance Hall, 2462 S. Ballenger Hwy. Flint, MI 48507. For more information and tickets contact the box office at 810-441-9302 or online at www.flintcommunityplayers.com
A special thank you to a longtime theatre supporter and production underwriter (he paid for the show) Eugene Miller. It was wonderful to see you and thank you for your support of local theatre. – JC