June 12, 2021

“Barefoot” didn’t put a foot wrong

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By Georgina Wilcox

Cayman Islands press were invited to a pre-showing of the Cayman Drama Society’s latest offering, Neil Simon’s famous play, “Barefoot in the Park”.

I expect a lot of you would have seen the movie of the same name that starred Jane Fonda as Corie and Robert Redford as Paul. The movie came out in 1967 and was based on the stage play. Simon also wrote the screenplay.

The film was a huge success making $28 million at the Box Office against a budget of only $2 million.

As for the play, it opened on Broadway at the Biltmore Theatre on October 23, 1963 and closed on June 25, 1967 after 1,530 performances! This made it the tenth longest-running non-musical play in Broadway history. Robert Redford played Paul, pre-his screenplay performance, and Elizabeth Ashley was Corie.

The Cayman Drama Society first staged ‘Barefoot in the Park’ in 1983 at The George Town Town Hall and I was a member of the audience. I remember it well and was amazed how the Society managed to get a set that looked great on the small Town Hall stage. It draw a large and enthusiastic audience and I had some misgivings about the play being performed again now. Would it be as good?

Before I answer that question, let me tell you something about the play’s plot as shown on the CDS website:

“Paul and Corie Bratter are newlyweds in every sense of the word. He’s a straight-as-an-arrow lawyer and she’s a free spirit always looking for the latest kick. Their new apartment is her most recent find – too expensive with bad plumbing and in need of a paint job. After a six-day honeymoon, they get a surprise visit from Corie’s loopy mother and decide to play matchmaker during a dinner with their neighbor-in-the-attic, Velasco, where everything that can go wrong, does. Paul just doesn’t understand Corie, as she sees it. He’s too staid, too boring, and she just wants him to be a little more spontaneous. Running “barefoot in the park” would be a start…”

Actually that synopsis doesn’t do the play justice. There is much more to it than that. For a start it is is very funny and dramatic too with a wonderful fight/row scene between the two newly weds that I can relate to.

From the opening scene with the telephone man and delivery man almost collapsing when they reach the newly weds rental apartment, up five flights of stairs plus another flight at the entrance of the apartment block, the pace is explosive. The delivery man is only on the stage for a minute, with no lines, but draw the first big laugh of the evening.

When their new neighbour Velasco arrives and announces he has to get into his apartment by going through the newly weds tiny bedroom window, because he has been locked out by the landlord by being behind on his rent, the laughs got louder. You see him walking along the narrow ledge as he passes the newly weds kitchen/dining/ living apartment’s two windows.

To say anymore would spoil the play if you haven’t seen it and if you have – you MUST see this latest staging. It is VERY GOOD!!

When you sit with less than a dozen people in a cold air conditioned theatre, who are there to do a critique, and take photographs, and they all laugh and cheer, you can see how we were all wowed.

Every single performance was EXCELLENT. There was no weak link – and the standout for me was Laveda Thompson who played Corie. She was magnificent. She commanded the stage. Her voice, her actions, plus her stage prescence and timing – she never put a foot wrong.

She told me afterwards she had been in a play of mine – Magna Carta – in the Chorus. She had come a long way. What a talent.

Director Paul Njoka told me it was a pleasure to direct the actors and initially he had doubts about Liam Oko in the lead male role as Paul  initially had marked him down to play The Telephone Man. He was pleased to have been proved wrong as Liam adapted himself into the role very quickly. Fay Anne De Freitas said she was thrilled to have been cast as Ethel, Corie’s mother. It was a role she had wanted and although very challenging, she grew into the character and every time she plays Ethel it gets easier.

The set is excellent, the direction is flawless, the costumes and furnishings are lovely  and the lighting is first class.

And to answer my original question is this staging as good as the previous one that I enjoyed so much? No it wasn’t. Incredibly, it was BETTER!

I urge everyone to go and see “Barefoot In The Park”. It is not to be missed.

Cast: Lavena Thompson (Corie), Liam Oko (Paul), Fay Anne DeFreitas (Ethel), Michael McLaughlin (Victor), Ted Bilack (Telephone Man) and Marc Thomas (Delivery Man).

Production: Director – Paul Njoka, Asst Director & Stage Manager – Erika Ebanks, Producer – Sheree Ebanks, Asst Stage Manager – Tracy Elliot, Poduction Support – Kirsty O’Sullivan, Lighting and Sound – Stephanie Lewis, Props & Wardrobe – Sheree and Erica Ebanks, Set Design & Lighting Design – Paul DeFreitas, Set Build – Paul DeFreitas, Bill Mervyn and Peter Pasold, Backstage – Marc Thomas, Charlie Thomas and Laura McCauley.

Playing at The Prospect Playhouse March 8 – 10, 15 – 17, 22 – 24.
Happy Hour: 6;30pm – 7:30pm
Showtime: 7:30pm
End time: 10:00pm

Tickets: Adult for CI$25.00 Student for CI$15.00

To book go to website: https://ticket.cds.ky/barefoot-in-the-park
or call 938-1998.

For more images see Top Slider “Cayman Drama Society presents “Barefoot in the Park”.

YOU MUST NOT MISS THIS LATEST CDS PRESENTATION!!

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