SANDY — Neil Simons’s Barefoot in the Park is arguably one of the most recognized titles in theater, its comedy and humanism universally recognized on stage, television and screen since its Broadway premiere in 1963. Corie and Paul Bratter, a pair of newlyweds with lovably clashing personalities, have been immortalized by the likes of Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, developed into an ABC television series in the 1970s, and revisited in a Broadway revival in 2006. With a small cast and brilliant script, this is a strong choice for the Sandy Arts Guild who present Barefoot in the Park as their inaugural production at Sandy City Hall’s Chamber Theater—a project 17 years in the making since City Hall’s construction in 1993.
With such anticipation, there is palpable excitement from the crew as the audience is greeted warmly by ushers and Arts Guild members, and the cast takes the stage with energy. Lacey Jackson sets the tone of the show from her first entrance as Corie, tossing her things carelessly around the apartment and chatting familiarly with the Telephone Man, six days after her marriage to Paul. Relentlessly perky, Jackson is clearly enthusiastic about her role and tends to channel Heather Burns as Meg Ryan’s assistant in the film You’ve Got Mail. Jackson perhaps takes the quirk factor a step too far however, which makes the character cutesy rather than particularly a free-spirited, modern woman of the 1960’s. Jackson’s strength lies in her honesty, when lines from a script become contributions to a conversation and movements are controlled, natural and uncalculated.
As Paul, Jeremy Dillon portrays the dutiful stuffiness that comes with the determination of a young lawyer to become partner. His performance is engaging as he achieves impressive emotional and physical levels throughout the performance. Dillon, more than any other cast member, captures the nature of Simon’s snappy New York dialogue, sensitive to pacing and subtlety.
Heather Monson, as Corie’s straight-laced widowed mother, and the illusively named Dru, as the Bratter’s colorful upstairs neighbor Victor Velasco, round out the main body of the cast. Monson’s clear diction and sincere delivery create moments that are genuinely funny—she does not go searching for the comedy in her lines. Dru is clearly comfortable as he commands the stage with a thick Hungarian accent and eccentric costumes. Together they produce an unlikely, but certainly amusing and oddly touching, duo by the end of the play. Sean Keene and Steve George also give memorable performances in their small but crucial roles as repair- and delivery men.
Sonja Ervin has designed an notably detailed set that really embraces the confines of the space, successfully contributing to the concept of a cramped, funny little apartment that creates so much tension throughout the play. There is no apology for the permanent ramps, railings, and platforms which are clearly better suited to City Council Chamber meetings. The production further adapts to the space by enacting the arrival of Paul and Corie’s furniture, as a moving crew in matching uniforms carries a sofa through the audience and decorates the set under the direction of Victor Velasco—a creative solution which is fun to watch and is later justified in the script. Such attention to detail makes it uncomfortable when a stagehand in full black and wearing bright pink Sandy Arts Guild credentials comes onstage to assist without a uniform to match the other crew members.
Laura Bedore Heugly also successfully utilizes a potentially awkward space in her direction. Scenes are well directed, though pace and timing tend to drag in larger scenes. Some intensity is lost as equal attention is given to vital and less significant moments alike. The first few scenes of Act III stand out, however, with sudden widespread candidacy from the actors. Corie and Paul’s deal-breaking argument shines with straightforward, earnest performances from Jackson and Dillon.
The Sandy Arts Guild production of Barefoot in the Park presents a solid and timeless production to begin a new chapter in their support of theater and the arts in our community.
Barefoot in the Park plays February 19, 20, 22, 26, 27 and March 1 at 7:30 PM in the Chamber Theater inside Sandy City Hall’s City Council Chambers, 1000 S. Centennial Parkway. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children or groups of ten or more, $3 for students with valid ID. Tickets can be purchased by calling 801-569-ARTS (2787) or at Sandy City Hall room 310.