Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park plays at Pec Playhouse

Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park plays at Pec Playhouse

By Edith McCauley, Theater Critic

Beginning a three-week run at Pec Playhouse, Barefoot in the Park represents Neil Simon’s early work. Set in the 1960s, the plot revolves around newlyweds, Corie and Paul Bratter (Jennifer Abel and Todd A. Barr). Their bare-bones sixth-floor walk-up in lower Manhattan with its broken skylight and a bedroom smaller than most closets becomes Corie’s dream house. Paul is less than enthusiastic. Hoping to declare her independence from a too-doting mother, Corie finds every aspect of the apartment perfect.

Abel and Barr deliver Simon’s dialogue well, but Diane Grosvenor-Johnson as Corie’s mother stars. From her opening scene, nearly collapsing after climbing six flights of stairs to the bewilderment of the morning after a night on the town, she plays the role of a middle-class housewife breaking out of the mold to perfection. Balancing her performance with his characterization of an aging Hungarian, Victor Velasco (Doug Lamoreux) is the mad tenant living in the attic, climbing across the skylight to avoid the landlord.

Simon’s plays represent a certain period. His characters drink and drive with little thought of the consequences, and the comedic drunk staggers across the stage. The construction of the second scene in Act II shows definite flaws. The argument between Corie and Paul goes on endlessly and ends vaguely. Is a divorce inevitable? Who knows?

Mark Kann’s scenic design recreates the feel of the ’60s with authentic props and retro decor. Nicole Moody and Jim Radloff are costumed from the NAT collection. Grosvenor-Johnson’s accessories, especially the hats, come directly from the period. Upgrading the technical aspects of its productions with purchases from the now-defunct Clock Tower Dinner Theatre, Pec Playhouse’s evolution into a professional company is evident.

Jesse T. Davidson directs. A Pecatonica native returning to his roots, his background in film, television and commercials well prepares him for every phase of theater—a welcome addition to Pec Playhouse’s staff.

Much of the credit for the amazing growth of this theater goes to Mark Kann and his board. In 11 years, they have devloped a complete season of plays, built a theater space with technical equipment, comfortable seating and a stage that accommodates nearly any production. Their program includes a variety of advertisers, lists of donors, and a detailed description of upcoming plays. Kann’s inclusion of “Theatre Around the Area” details the season’s offerings of Beloit Civic Theatre, Mighty Richland Players Dinner Theatre in Orangeville, NAT, Rockford College, Rock Valley College, Town Square Players in Woodstock, Winneshiek Players in Freeport, Woodstock Musical Theatre Company and Y Knot Productions in Rockford. Dates and telephone numbers are included.

They also offer acting workshops. On October 5, Jesse T. Dabson holds a session entitled “Creating a Character”, and on October 12, joan e. kole conducts “That Was Ensemble Acting.” kole directs the next production, Miracle on 34th Street. Auditions are September 30 and October 2 at 7 p.m. For further details, call 395-9586 or 1-800-208-9198 or send an e-mail to Barefoot in the Park runs through October 6 with performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Their last production, Oliver, played to sold-out houses, so call soon for tickets to the current play.

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