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‘Barefoot in the Park’ brings the laughs to Millbrook Playhouse

MILL HALL — What Simon says usually triggers a laughfest.

But for many Millbrook Playhouse theatergoers, the main draw of its leadoff attraction may be as much, if not the Cabaret setting, rather than the show itself.

Kicking off the downstairs Cabaret’s 2017 lineup is “Barefoot In the Park,” with 7:30 p.m. performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday at the Playhouse, 258 Country Club Lane.

One of Neil Simon’s earliest comedies, “Barefoot In The Park,” opening on Broadway in 1963, often shows its age, so although it can aptly be described as dated, it is not really outdated if one counts the laughs-per-minute heard throughout the nearly two hour running time.

Much of the success of this “Barefoot” adaptation can best be laid at the feet of Shannon Agnew, the show’s energetic director. Agnew, who was almost a fixture on Millbrook’s stages the last few years, moves into Millbrook’s director’s chair for the first time in this classic Neil Simon comedy.

Covering a few days in February 1963 after a young couple spends a six-day honeymoon in a New York hotel, “Barefoot” is set in the fifth floor apartment which Corie has rented. This brownstone apartment, unseen by Paul, leave lots to be desired (little heat, no bathtub, a tiny bedroom and a gaping hole in the skylight).

The immediate period of adjustment needed between the free spirited Corie and her overly cautious Paul to make their marriage get off on the right foot — bare or otherwise — drives this fast moving comedy.

The unannounced visit of Corie’s widowed mother, and the antics of the eccentric upstairs tenant add matchmaking to the young bride’s “to-do” list.

Corie and Paul’s contrasting lifestyles (he’s what she calls “a stuffed shirt”) provide some laughs, but it is Corie’s well heeled mother Mrs. Banks, and zany Victor who provide the most comical moments.

The newlywed’s marital bliss falls apart, and talk suddenly turns to divorce in Act II, and although somewhat funny, it is played out too shrilly. But love, according to what Neil Simon says, thankfully triumphs once again.

“Barefoot” has many moments of Simon’s famous rat-a-tat retorts, which prompt plenty of laughter. Still, the level of acting varies greatly.

Rachel Marie Snyder heads the cast as the impulsive Corie. Always cheerful, Snyder also is always hyper in her delivery.

Without the slightest modulation, and over reacting to everyone’s comments makes Corie’s overly manic energy often a bit annoying.

Sean O’Connor plays Paul, pleasantly trying to “loosen up,” but needing to be focused as a first year lawyer.

Monica Howe (a bit too youthful looking to be Corie’s mother) has funny dialogue as the kvetching Mrs. Banks, whether giving advice to her daughter or being wooed by the upstairs tenant Victor.

Giving the most effective acting is Thomas-Robert Irvin as Victor Velasco, the Bohemian tenant. His “drunken” reactions with Mrs. Banks when returning from an Albanian restaurant sound natural and are frequently hilarious.

Completing he cast is area actor Isaac Conner as Harry, the telephone deliveryman, who makes a couple of funny “connections” with Corie in his two brief scenes.

Millbrook’s business manager David Gritzner also appears (with no lines) as “the Delivery Man” early on in the two-act play (which as been restructured from the three acts as originally drafted).

The Cabaret’s opening night audience often roared at the screwball antics, bits of physical humor, and Neil Simon’s one-liners, making “Barefoot” a funny, entertaining stroll. For more information, call the box office at 570-748-8083 or visit www.millbrookplay house.org.

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