Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Theater Review: Barefoot in the Park -- Ivoryton Playhouse

Sean Patrick Hopkins and Kathleen Mulready. Photo by Anne Hudson
An Old Favorite with New Energy
By Lauren Yarger
If you feel like you have seen enough productions of Neil Simon’s oft-produced comedy Barefoot in the Park , think again. Newlyweds Corie and Paul Bratter and the zany folks visiting their tiny five-flights-up brownstone apartment get a fresh new treatment in the production currently being staged at Ivoryton Playhouse, mostly thanks to Kathleen Mulready, starring as the vivacious and charming Corrie.

Mulready lights up the stage with an enthusiasm and charm that makes it impossible for us not to sit up and take notice. She’s the quintessential Corrie – an eternally optimist, always-smiling free spirit who is the polar opposite of her more uptight lawyer husband, Paul (Sean Patrick Hopkins), who never would think of doing something so uninhibited as to walk barefoot in the park, for example.

He has more in common with his mother-in-law, Mrs. Banks (Katrina Ferguson), who doesn’t understand Corrie’s free-spirited nature either, but who tries to be a good sport when Corrie sets her up on a blind date with the couple’s Bohemian neighbor, Victor Velasco (Buzz Roddy), who accesses his own place by climbing out the Bratter’s bedroom window and edging along a ledge to his attic dwelling. (The apartment and the nice skylight window is designed by Rachel Reynolds and makes such a dramatic change from unfinished room to homey apartment at intermission that it receives applause).

Ivoryton veteran R. Bruce Connelly directs this performance, which is a lot of fun, helped by nice comedic turns by Ferguson, a riotously out-of-breath Tom Libonate as the telephone repairman and Dan Coyle as a wheezing delivery man. Costume designer Vivian Lamb puts them all in 1960 character-appropriate garb.

Mulready is the treat, though. Whether she’s thoroughly enjoying the memories of foreign cuisine, trying to seduce Paul or convinced that her short marriage is over, Corrie approaches every situation with unbridled enthusiasm and never stops smiling. And neither can we.

Barefoot in the Park runs through June 28 at Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30, Friday and Saturday at 8. Tickets are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting http://www.ivorytonplayhouse.org/. Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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