How do modern Americans talk? What are their hang-ups? Dreams? Someday, when people wonder about those things, they’ll be wise to go to the works of Neil Simon, the grand poet of the comic one-liner.
Simon burst into light over the theater scene like a rising comet in the 1960s. That is, if a comet were to kvetch to us about its insecurities. Neil Simon is the comic voice of the common man. Stage Door Players showed us perhaps his masterpiece not too long ago with its production of “The Odd Couple.” Now it returns with the equally winning “Barefoot in the Park,” beautifully directed by Robert Egizio. It’s all too easy for us to throw out the “must see” handle, but here you go–you must see this one.
Paul and Corie Bratter, just back from their honeymoon and madly in love, are moving into the top floor of an aging brownstone. In New York City, mind you—remember, this is Neil Simon’s universe, which rarely ventures outside the boroughs. Paul and Corie must now cope with epic stair-climbing, an eccentric Simonish neighbor who may or may not enter from the window ledge, and, of course, the always surprising game of get-to-know-your-spouse.
But don’t look for too many profound meanings here. Simon writes about people we know who bear feelings we’ve shared, and when we laugh, we laugh along with, not at his characters. But boy, do we laugh.
On opening night, this production won an easy standing O. It’s easy to give the credit to a well-written comedy, but this is a particularly sparkling production of “Barefoot” in every respect.
Robert Redford originated the role of Paul Bratter, repeating it for the 1967 film just after coming perilously close to giving up acting. (Can’t tell that one now; check Wikipedia.) Our Paul, Edward McCreary, is pitch-perfect for a Simon comedy, gently embodying the role and letting the script deliver the comic goods. He’s a bit more from the Matthew Broderick school of likeable leads.
Opposite him is Alyssa Caputo as Corie - an absolute delight, channeling at times her movie counterpart: a young Jane Fonda. Ann Wilson, as Corie’s mom, and James Donadio, as the upstairs neighbor, are full of surprises and nice moments. Smaller roles, too (Rial Ellsworth as the telephone repairman and Evan Weisman as the delivery man) are very well cast. As with seemingly every production, Stage Door capitalizes on the vast bank of Atlanta theatrical talent.
Chuck Welcome’s set finds the specifics of 1963 apartment decor (which means fading appliance relics from earlier epochs). Snow falls through the skylight on cue, and you can almost feel the NYC wind chill. And at intermission, we had to rest from all those flights of stairs. Rounding out the excellent production team are Jim Alford (Costume Design), George Deavours (Wig Design), Kathy Ellsworth (Properties Design), J.D. Williams (Lighting Design), Rial Ellsworth (Sound Design), A.J. Stevenson (Stage Manager) and Rachael Hunter (Technical Director).
Performances of “Barefoot in the Park” continue on Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through Oct.16. There is also a performance on Thursday, Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. Individual tickets are $30 for adults, $27 for senior adults, $22 for students and $15 for youth under 12 years. But, do yourself a favor and go ahead and inquire about purchasing season tickets – you’ll thank us because the productions at Stage Door are always spectacular.Performances are held at the North DeKalb Cultural Center, 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 770-396-1726 or visit stagedoorplayers.net.