Friday, September 30, 2011

A nice evening in the 'Park'

CONWAY — Summer may be over, but The Mount Washington Valley Theatre Company is sneaking in one last show of professional theater with Neil Simon's “Barefoot in the Park” which opened Sept. 28 and is playing through Oct. 1 and Oct. 5 to 9 at the Eastern Slope Inn Playhouse.
Real-life married couple Grant and Liz Golson star as Paul and Corie Bratter, newlyweds who after a six-day honeymoon at the Plaza Hotel move into a small fifth floor (sixth if you include the stoop) apartment with a hole in the skylight, no bathtub and dodgy heat.
This isn't the first time the Golsons have shared the Mount Washington Valley Theatre Company's stage as a couple. They most notably played lovers in the 2008 production of “Cabaret.” There real-life chemistry is evident and translates well to the stage.
“Barefoot in the Park” first debuted on Broadway in 1963 and later spawned a film starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in 1967 and a short-lived TV series with an all black cast in 1970.
The play chronicles the first few days in their apartment including a dinner party in which Corie attempts to set up her single mother (Caroline Nesbitt) with Victor Velasco (Craig Holden), the kooky neighbor who lives in the attic. Paul, an uptight, slightly neurotic lawyer and Corie, an energic free spirit, have their marriage put to the test and begin to question if they rushed into it.
As with Simon's other works, the show is peppered with sharp one-liners. In Simon's world, everyone — including the telephone repairman (Patrick Roberts) — is quick witted and has excellent comic timing. Simon's stylized dialogue remains very funny even if some of the references are dated.
Grant Golson proves himself to be an excellent physical comedian. The look on his face after carrying Corie's mother up to the apartment after a night out is priceless. The way he pulls a blanket over himself for a night on the couch after a fight with Corie is a small moment that gets a big laugh.
Liz Golson has a bright smile and bubbly personality that makes Corie easily likeable. Corie, under the outgoing front, is actually quite insecure and is quick to jump to the conclusion that her mother disapproves of her actions. It is this insecurity that ultimately leads to her question the marriage. Liz Golson doesn't let this subtext overtake the performance, but hints at it just enough.
Nesbitt protrays a mother who is a good sport. When Nesbit first walks into the unfurnished apartment she does a good job of hiding her disappoint and trying to stay positive and support. During the blind date with Holden, Nesbit's awkward anxiety gets some solid laughs.
As for Holden, the role of Victor Velasco is a familiar variation on the sorts of characters he plays so well. Aging eccentrics are a good fit for Holden; what that says about the actor I'll leave up to you to decide. Holden and Nesbitt develop a sweet chemistry together. Their budding romance runs parallel to Paul and Corie's young love and acts as an example and reminder to the couple when things start to crumble.
“Barefoot in the Park” is a light, easy-going night of theater. It is simply a charming play with some big laughs and a sweet love story.
All shows are at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $29. Flex Passes good for four admissions are $100. Special rates for larger groups are also available. For reservations or information call the box office at 356-5776 or visit

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