By Christina Perryman
Do you remember that first married feeling? The thrill and excitement of your first apartment? Maybe your first fight? My husband and I will celebrated our 16th anniversary in September and I still remember how excited we were to move into our first apartment, and, while I can’t remember the exact content (I think it was about laundry), I recall the first time we argued enough that he slept on the couch. At the time, it seemed monumental, but the perspective of time, now makes it comical.
Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park, currently on stage at The Candlelight Theatre under the excellent direction of Paul Nolan, captures all the giddiness and complications that come with being newly married. Corie and Paul Bratter (Sarah Robertson and David Polgar) have been married six days. They are just starting out on the marriage journey and while they love each other, it is clear from the start their personalities are almost complete opposites. Corie is energetic and excitable, passionate about life and willing to try new things. Paul is more uptight, proper and predictable. They have just moved into the top floor of a New York apartment building, full of eccentric neighbors, including Victor Velasco (Ted Ford), who lives in the attic above the Bratters. Corie meets Victor when he is locked out of his apartment and needs to climb out her bedroom window to get to his apartment. Corie is charmed by the stranger and hatches a plan to introduce him to her mother, Mrs. Banks (Susan Giddings). She arranges a dinner party but things go awry when the stove catches on fire and the quartet goes out to dinner. While Paul and Mrs. Banks are both well out of their comfort zones, Corie embraces the adventure. This leads to a heated argument between the young couple, culminating in Corie accusing Paul of being a “stuffed shirt” and demanding a divorce.
“Barefoot in the Park” hilariously captures the ups and downs of the newly married life. From climbing the six tortuous flights of steps, to unexpected visitors, to dealing with each others idiosyncrasies and adjusting to different habits. Robertson is brimming with energy and enthusiasm. In fact, my sister commented at intermission that she was tired just watching Roberson dart around the stage. Robertson was endearing, giving Corie a thirst for life. Yet she could command herself when Mrs. Banks was around, trying very hard to please a prim and proper mother. Polgar was a great contrast to Robertson’s vivacity. Polgar’s Paul was quite tense and old-fashioned, but in a comical way, particularly when playing off Robertson. His facial expressions and vocal inflections added much humor to the situations.
Giddings was, possibly, the funniest character in the show and definitely a scene stealer. Any time Giddings had to climb the stairs was hilarious, particularly after the dinner out when Polgar “helps” her up the steps. Giddings has great timing and is very expressive. Ford was charming and a bit of a rapscallion as Victor Velasco. Telephone Repairman Frank Schierloh only makes two appearances, but they are memorable.
Candlelight’s newly refurbished stage received top-notch treatment from Envision Productions, who created a cozy living space and stellar skylight. Lighting, by Mike Cristella and Max Redmad, was wonderful. Wigs and hair by Lisa Miller Challenger were great. Sound by Dennis Mahoney was well done. I enjoyed the music. Tara Bowers chose costumes perfectly suited to the time period.
The Candlelight Theatre, for those unfamiliar with it, is a dinner theater. Tickets to the show include a delicious buffet before the curtain. Dinner selections change for each production. The choices for “Barefoot in the Park” include salmon with lime avacado mango salsa, roast beef with red wine mushroom sauce, chicken breast with peanut sauce, coconut rice with ginger, carrots and green scallions, and much more. The buffet also includes a salad and dessert bar.
“Barefoot in the Park” is a lighthearted comedy that appeals to everyone, even if you’ve never married. The outstanding performers kept the audience laughing from start to finish. The show runs at The Candlelight Theatre, 2208 Millers Road, Wilmington, Del., through Aug. 27. Tickets are $60 for adults, $33 for children ages 4-120. No one under the age of 4 is admitted. Doors open at 6 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 1 p.m. on Sundays. For complete show times, tickets or information, call 1-302-475-2313 or visit http://www.candlelighttheatredelaware.com/. Check the theater’s Facebook page for deals and industry specials.