The Fairview Library Theatre is no special venue: essentially, it’s a concrete encased space with rows of comfy seats. It feels subterranean and industrial… that is, until the curtain rises. With Amicus Productions’ presentation of Neil Simon’s classic anti-romantic comedy ‘Barefoot in the Park’ on center stage, the entire space is transformed. A stylish 1960s apartment with a small cast of kooky characters overpower the less than ideal venue and the magic of theatre comes alive.
Amicus, and in particular the director Jessica Beaulieu, put on an absolutely wonderful show. The story of Corie and Paul Bratter, two newly wed New Yorkers, is one that bucks the typical romantic comedy trend. As opposed to exploring how two people got together, the play displays what happens when the honeymoon’s over. The two fight bitterly, deal with a tiny sixth floor walk-up apartment, and, worst of all (to Paul at least), have to manage some wacky neighbours like 58 year old playboy Mr. Victor Velasco. The production displays the story beautifully. Technically perfect with neat character entrances and exits, a nifty addition of era appropriate music to help liven up a play that’s been produced for almost fifty years, and actors who, for the most part, excelled, all help bring back the comedic genius that is Neil Simon.
It’s the actors who matter the most in this kind of play. Sets and effects are minimal because at the heart of things, it’s the characters that dominate. The cast as a whole worked beautifully with chemistry flying off each other. Carefree and sweet house wife Corie Bratter is played well by Sophia Fabiilli who, although shrill at times, is fun, likable, and utterly convincing. The straight man to her wild child, Paul Bratter (played by Ryan Fisher) gets better as the play goes on, really shining in acts two and three. Showing he can do both subtle dry humour and zany physical comedy well, Fisher is one to watch.
Although the two young lovers are immensely enjoyable to see, the real stand out of the cast has to be Maureen Lukie as Corie’s prim and proper mother Mrs. Banks. Lukie made the audience laugh with practically every line she spoke and brought life to the dowdy character, in my opinion, out performing Mildred Natwick who played her in the famous 1967 film. Michael Sherman had a small but effective role as a hard done by telephone repairman. He book ends the play and helps the newlyweds realize their love with a sweet Scottish tilt. The only cast member who didn’t quite mesh was Greg Nowlan whose Victor Velasco was more creepy than kooky, although he, like Ryan Fisher, improved as the play went on. On the whole, the troupe performed excellently as an ensemble cast and made the play shine.
The audience walked out of the play with smiles on their faces, and for good reason. The sets, costumes, lighting, music, and other technical aspects all helped fine tune the performances into a sweet piece of theatre. The laughs came fast and furious as the actors owned the stage.
Barefoot in the Park show was closed this weekend. However, Amicus Productions invite you to see their next piece, Having Hope at Home, which promises more laughs in April.