“Barefoot in the Park” Promises “Night of Sweet Laughter”

Promising a “night of sweet laughter,” Frostburg State University’s department of Theatre and Dance will be performing Neil Simon’s classic comedy, “Barefoot in the Park.” The play is directed by Professor Dustin Shaffer. Last fall, Shaffer directed FSU’s production of “Angels in America Part One: Millennium Approaches.”  The play features Haley Schott and Fred Ramsey as Corie and Paul Bratter. Schott’s recent credits include the spring 2013 production of “Peter Pan or… The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up,” and the fall 2013 production of “Psycho Beach Party.” Ramsey was last seen in the fall 2012 production, “A Civil War Christmas.”

“Barefoot in the Park” centers on newlyweds Corie and Paul Bratter, who have just moved into a new apartment. The couple runs into difficulties, as the apartment is too small and run-down to contain their contrasting personalities. Paul, a lawyer, is perhaps too rigid for the fun-loving Corie. These issues are compounded when Corie attempts to set up her quirky neighbor Victor Velasco (Nelson Ayala), with her mother, Ethel Banks (Kristen Demers). The two pairs go out on the town for a night and wild escapades ensue.

Despite a handful of dramatic scenes, Simon’s distinctive comedy shines through with clever jokes and witty banter. Shaffer referenced the strong balance of dramatic and comedic moments. “There are moments of real sadness coupled with moments of extreme joy and laughter,” Shaffer said. He emphasized that, even though some moments are “tear jerkers,” the show is a comedy, saying “We try to keep it light.”

Lighting designer Erik Braun elaborated on the comedy of the play, saying, “It’s a Neil Simon comedy with a lot of funny, witty dialogue, and we added some physical comedy to it, but it does have a serious underlying message.” The play contains a few emotional moments, but overall, the mood is well-balanced and light.

The energetic performance by the cast adds even more to the humor. Shaffer attributes much of the show’s success to the actors. He stated, “I really wanted to cast for personalities, and I wanted to look for actors that fit the characteristics of the characters.” Shaffer’s method paid off, as the acting feels authentic and natural. “You get good actors together and you let them to do what they do, and you trust them to do their job,” Shaffer said. He added that the actors are “extremely talented” and they did a phenomenal job.

The director also praised his designers for their contribution to the show. “A lot of attention to detail makes the difference. You have to have the little details to have the big details,” he said. “When you have good designers, they make your life as the director so much easier,” he continued.

The designers of the show created a set that reflected the play and time period.  Sound designer Joshua Duguid selected popular songs from the 1960s to bring viewers to 1968, when the play takes place. With the use of furniture and appliances representative of the era, the set looks and feels the part of a 1968 New York apartment. Also contributing to the feel of the show are the costumes, designed by Anecia Whitehead. The light design by Braun amplifies the tone, and it also helps to place the setting in a winter time New York City. The efforts of the designers are often underappreciated, but they are an integral part of telling this story.

Those attending “Barefoot in the Park” can expect a phenomenal show with tons of laughs. The play will be performed on November 15th, 16th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd at 7:30 PM with an additional 2:00 PM showing on November 16th. Tickets are $6.00 for students and $12.00 for the general public.

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