As we settled into our seats at the Granite Theatre Saturday night, for a performance of Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park," I overheard Judy George (who's making her directorial debut with comedy,) tell a gentleman how much she's enjoyed her first time in the director's seat.
I am happy to report that George's fondness for her new role is quite apparent ... as is her skill. The Granite's version of the 1963 Pulitzer Prize-winning play is well-directed, well-acted and a whole lot of fun. George's enjoyment shows.
The play takes place in a fifth-floor walk-up in Manhattan — the home of newlyweds Corie (Chelsea Mitchell) and Paul (John Cilino) Bratter. Mitchell is spot-on as is Corie, the kooky, bohemian who finds charm and fun in the drafty over-priced apartment, where snow falls inside thanks to a broken skylight. Cilino, a Granite regular, is superb as Paul, the straight-laced serious attorney whose patience with the broken radiator and lack of bathtub is wearing thin. If only her new husband could be as carefree as she, the young wife forlornly wishes, if only he could be spontaneous and fun-loving enough to run "barefoot in the park." As a recently-married couple, navigating their new intimacy, Mitchell and Cilino click with authenticity — essential in a play packed with Simon's trademark snappy, zippy, zingy dialogue.
When Corie's mom, Mother (Mari Enrique, in her first Granite Role, is terrific!) arrives for a visit, the dynamic changes and adds more hilarity to an already ridiculously hilarious scene. When Corie introduces Mother to their eccentric neighbor-in-the-attic Victor Velasco (Geoff Blanchette, with his accent and beret is very, very funny, and very, very good) things become even more silly and foolish. Wait 'till you see the food scene, when they start popping Victor's wild-sounding Knichi into their mouths ... and Victor (and later Paul) walk across the outside ledge of the apartment ... oh my!
The talented Warren Usey plays the role of the Telephone Repairman, and watching him try to catch his breath after his long climb to the Bratter's apartment is quite comical. Actually, watching each character go through the same breath-catching process is one of the running gags that keeps the audience laughing throughout.
Granite newcomer James Mockler makes for an excellent Delivery Man.
The set (well done, Jimmy Pollitt, Mel Jolly, Fred Bartkiewicz, Linda Shea, Tom Danusis, Henry Ferrara, Michael Wlochowski and Chad George) is simple and simply perfect, and the scene changes were different and refreshing.
It was a treat to be welcomed by Steve Spartano (oh he of the marvelous voice) at the beginning of the play and to be bid adieu by the wonderful John Lamar, the sound designer who oversees light and sound for the play. The nostalgic tunes played at the beginning and end of the play, and during intermission add a nice touch to the overall pleasant, uplifting experience.