Riverside Theatre was again a hub of activity over the weekend. It was the second production in the promised nine week run of three plays for three weeks each. The first play in the nine weeks of entertainment was I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change which was a true success in every form of the word. Those who had seen the first production were prepared for another theatrical treat, those who had not were in for one.
Barefoot in the Park is a Neil Simon production which was most famously played by Jane Fonda and Robert Redford shortly after it was created. This time around the talent was straight from the dynamic River Road Theatre company. Chelsea Turner, Benjamin Wardle, Marcus Stusek, Heather Motut and Rachel Ward “threw the play together” while running their first production to its conclusion. They used their three weeks well designing and building an impressive set and learning all the lines necessary to keep their audience entertained.
While Ward was behind the scenes this time, it was obvious to all that she was a crucial part of the play which ran smoothly from start to finish. Chelsea Turner, our local talent, who brought the other four to town played the leading lady. Turner made the newlywed Corie Bratter equal parts nutty and lovable. Her well-delivered one liners boosted the show’s humour quota to well above par.
Marcus Stusek as the caring “stuffed shirt” Paul Bratter laid zinger after zinger on the smiling crowd…some which caused moments of extreme uncontrollable laughter. He took on the role with true gusto. Stusek and Turner together combusted into a tag team of delight.
Benjamin Wardle took on two New Yorker characters. His telephone repairman persona was likable and enjoyably wise. Victor Velasco was the “very nice man” who lived upstairs in the attic above the less than perfect first home of the newlywed Bratters. Wardle gave Velasco a warm heart, goofy charm and a New York signature dash of yiddish whimsy.
Heather Motut played the role of the last character on the team, Corie Bratter’s mother Ethel Banks. Banks was a wonderful addition through Motut’s talent. Audiences who had seen her in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change knew she could sing, but alas she can rip through the comedy too. Motut gave Ethel some facial expressions that could be considered nothing less than priceless.
The main reason a play is a smash hit is because of a wonderful mixture of talent, content and entertainment value. This play had all the ingredients. Barefoot in the Park was in good hands with the competent crew of River Road Theatre behind the curtain. “Two out of three ain’t bad,” but returning audiences must surely be hopeful that 39 Steps will make River Road Theatre’s time in Princeton a home run all the way through. 39 Steps starts its three week run on Friday, July 29.