By Daniel Skora
“There are two kinds of people”, says Corie Bratter as she lectures her husband Paul during the first big argument of their barely one week old marriage. “There are doers and there are watchers…” she declares, “…and I’m a doer and you’re a watcher”. And something Corie is capable of doing that Paul would never think to do is to go barefoot in the park, which is also the name of a classic Neil Simon play and the current presentation of The Dio Dinner Theatre in Pinckney.
“Barefoot in the Park” was Simon’s most popular play, a 1963 Broadway success that ran for nearly four years. It recorded 1530 performances and remains on the list of top 100 Broadway shows ever, still lingering strongly at number 51. The play may seem a little outdated what with the telephone that plays a minor role in the story having to be firmly anchored to the wall by a cord, and $125 getting you an apartment in New York City, albeit a small one. But comedy when done right has a way of transcending time and place and “Barefoot” is one funny play.
Corie, nicely played here in an enthused and high-spirited performance by Mary Dilworth, is busy preparing their newly rented apartment for her and her husband Paul (Peter Crist). It’s a five floor New York walkup (six if you count the stoop) which by itself accounts for a good many of the show’s laughs because of the way people look after making the trek. The apartment has its problems, like the drab colors of the walls, the tiny bedroom that can accommodate little else than a mattress, and the hole in the ceiling that lets in a slice of the cold New York winter. Young love has a way of overcoming such minor irritants, but not so much those that strike at the heart of a relationship.
Corie is fun-loving, outgoing and romantic. She is still sexually frisky after the quick honeymoon the couple spent at a fancy hotel. Paul is a lawyer, anxious to get back to work and able to defer his romantic tendencies until his schedule permits. Adding tension to their love nest is the disruption of some well-meaning interlopers. Ethel (Sonja Marquis) is Corie’s mother. She has nothing but well wishes for her daughter and new son-in-law, but living alone seems to have given her some needs of her own. And then there’s Victor (Dan Morrison), the building bon vivant, who lives upstairs in the attic and has the same fun-loving, outgoing, romantic ways as Corie. When Corie invites both Victor and Ethel to dinner, a rift develops between the newlyweds that isn’t going to be settled peaceably.
Simon’s script offers plenty of opportunity for both verbal and physical comedy and The Dio’s production does well on both. Morrison and Marquis create appealing characters separately and have excellent chemistry when working together. Others in the cast who make the near-fatal climb up to the newlywed’s apartment include the telephone installer (Steve DeBruyne), whose concern for the sparring couple is tempered by fear and discretion, and a delivery man (Stephen Dean), who says more with a few guttural sounds than any written dialogue could ever convey.
“Barefoot in the Park” presents an excellent opportunity to become both a doer and a watcher. Do go to the Dio and you will be delightfully rewarded for watching this hilariously funny Neil Simon classic done up right. The show is directed by Greg Bailey. Set, lighting, and sound are by Matt Tomich. Costume design is by Norma Polk and props by Eileen Obradovich. Chef Jarod DeBruyne’s always delicious buffet, again featuring his Signature Fried Chicken, is served before the performance, with desert coming during the play’s intermission. The show runs through March 5th. For tickets and information call 1.517.672.6009 or go online at www.diotheatre.com. The Dio – Dining and Entertainment is located at 177 E. Main Street in downtown Pinckney.