Review: Virginia Rep’s “Barefoot in the Park”

Virginia Repertory Theatre’s “Barefoot In The Park” is a Tastefully Done Modern Classic

By Toniraye M. Moss

Virginia Repertory Theatre’s production of “Barefoot in The Park,” directed by Jan Guarino, was a modern classic, tastefully done. From Terrie Powers’ believable set depicting a New York Brownstone on East 48th Street, to Sue Griffin and Marcia Miller Hailey’s costume design, which included bell-sleeves, reminiscent of a bohemian Barbra Streisand in the late seventies, to Matt Landwehr’s lighting design that shifted from bright to intimate to the sparse and eventual addition of furniture signaling a new beginning, the mood was set from the start for this Neil Simon play about a young couple learning about the realities of love and life.

As Paul Brattner, Trevor Lawson remained true to his character while lending a special quality to the role which made the audience feel his every emotion. Like a dancer, Trevor utilized his entire being in each of his scenes, and you find yourself believing you are a part of his living room, a part of the connective tissue that makes Paul evolve.  The scene that stands out most is when Paul is angry and sips on his scotch, giving that look which suggested the hard bite of liquor hitting his throat and the way he held the glass with his finger extended, as a man does when trying to control his temper. Trevor became Paul and Paul emotionally evolved before our eyes. We felt sorry for him having such a bratty wife and we felt a rush of relief for him for being enlightened and patient enough to understand the meaning of life through her. Giving a solid performance, Trevor Lawson’s portrayal of Paul Brattner will have you wanting to see him grace the stage again.

As Corrie Brattner, Rachel Rose Gilmour enters Act One with hopes and dreams of the big city in her eyes. She is whimsical, naïve, and just a touch spoiled at first, escalating all the way to bratty by Acts Two and Three. Whether by the director’s advisement or her own self interpretation, Gilmour’s emotional transition from bratty and pouty to annoyed and angry fell a bit flat for me, making the connectivity to the character unbelievable during one of the more emotionally vulnerable scenes. But she more than makes up for this in the more lighthearted scenes with her neighbor. Quan Chau plays the telephone repairman and Eric Williams plays the delivery man, and as brief as their appearances are, both are wonderful complements to their characters and to the stage! Both are so funny and their performances so believable, I just wished they had more time onstage!

Rounding out this talented cast are Joe Pabst who plays Victor Velasco, the crazy, eccentric, yet mysterious neighbor, and Joy Williams who reprises her role as Ethel Banks, Corie’s opinionated but well-meaning mother. Equally brilliant, well rounded, and authentically true to their characters, both Joe Pabst and Joy Williams were sunshine and light in their roles portraying wo strangers, inwardly searching, and needing what the other offered, while providing a net of wisdom and acceptance for Corie and Paul. Especially touching is the scene between Ethel and Corie where you feel the sincere wisdom and connection of their mother-daughter bond. In this way, you realize the layers and depth in Williams’ character. Likewise, we realize this same depth with Pabst’s character when it is resolved that Victor is not as eccentric as he is lonely, not as “crazy” as he is kind.

Virginia Repertory Theatre’s Barefoot in The Park boasts a talented cast and crew. While there are some areas where emotional transitions could have been more connective, overall, this play is one whose cast deserves attention and one where the leading man will have even the most analytical, type-B personality wanting to go “Barefoot in The Park.”

This modern classic runs for just one more weekend at Hanover Tavern, so get your tickets right away!

Virginia Rep’s “Barefoot in the Park” runs through January 16th at the Hanover Tavern. Tickets cost $48.

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