Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Barefoot in the Park—Beaverton Civic Theatre—Beaverton, OR

Letting the Hair Down

This early Neil Simon comedy is directed by Doreen Lundberg.  It is playing at the Beaverton City Library, 12375 SW 5th St., through March 11th.  For more information, please go to their site at www.beavertoncivictheatre.org or call 503-764-9866.

The 50’s in America, post-war era, could be considered the complacent, stuffed-shirt age in suburbia, a growing part of the U. S., as  lawns were neatly trimmed, women wore wide-dresses with hooped skirts and pearls, stayed at home and took care of the household and kids, while daddies dutifully went to work in tie and starched, white shirt, briefcase in hand, to an unexciting, nameless job in the city, joining forever the evolution of the rat race.  Well, then the 60’s came along and thrust a wedge into the convenient maze that people were running around in and out popped the sexual revolution, Viet Nam, protesters, Civil Right marches, the drug culture and the age of letting your hair down!  Rock, on!

For those living in the big city, the coming-of-age era was barely noticeable.  Paul (Conner Brown), an up-and-coming, young lawyer and a newlywed, seemed firmly stuck in the conservative 50’s.  His fastidious, mother-in-law, Mrs. Banks (Susan Giberson), also seemed rooted in the trenches of the same time period.  But their counter-parts, Corie (Amanda Clark), a perky, free-spirited sprite (with killer doe-eyes) is content to live their lives on love along.  Equally Bohemian is Victor, their upstairs neighbor (who lives in an attic), roughish, ribald, riotous, but with not a sou to his name.  When these opposing elements are mixed, like oil and water, the results could be explosive (with laughter).

They have just moved into an unfinished, Brownstone apartment in The Big Apple, top floor (not including the attic), several flights up (if you include the stoop…they do) and no elevator.  That alone would be a source of comedy, too, as discovered by an almost mute, panting, delivery man (Mark Milner) and a very chatty, telephone man (Dwayne Thurnau), not including the effects on the aforementioned characters, who also have some trepidations and palpitations with the stairway scalings.

In other words, something’s got to give for these people to survive, and lifestyles need to be altered, changed completely or forever parted, as long as they all shall live.  That is the crux of the story.  As to how they deal with it and the outcome are up to an audience to discover.  This is one of the early works of Simon, as mentioned, and is pretty thin material to cover a full-length play.  Later plays, like “The Gingerbread Lady,”  “The Good Doctor,” (have directed both myself) et. al., have more substantial material involving both comedy and drama.  But, in this instance, it is not the words that enhance, it is the actors themselves, all of which are very good and rise above the slight fodder of the tale.

Clark I have reviewed before and credited her with just about stealing the show.  She is equally good here and definitely has a knack for comedy.  Her timing of lines and gestures on the funny parts is priceless and she is equally good with the more dramatic moments, especially in the fight scene.  Hope to see more of her onstage.  Brown is good as the stuffy hubby and is a fitting foil for Clark.  Both the Giberson’s are perfect in their character roles and their talent and experience for stage work shows in their performances.  They also worked very well together as director and actor in one of the best shows of the Season, in BCT’s, “Around the World in 80 Days.”  And Thurnau and Milner round out the cast in their brief but effective roles.  Lundberg has done well with her great eye for casting and then directing this talented ensemble.

I recommend this show, especially for the performances.  If you do see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.