The Hippo


Jun 4, 2020








 Barefoot in the Park 

Where: Derry Opera House, 29 W. Broadway, Derry 
When: Friday, June 22, and Saturday, June 23, 7 p.m., and Sunday, June 24, 2 p.m. 
Cost: $10 for kids under age 18, $13 for seniors age 65 and over, and $15 for adults 

Just married
Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park comes to Derry


 By Angie Sykeny
The Majestic Theatre takes on a relatable romantic comedy with Barefoot in the Park, which opens Friday, June 22, at the Derry Opera House. 
Written by Neil Simon, who also penned The Odd Couple, the play is set in the 1960s and follows a newlywed couple, Corie and Paul Bratter, during their first week of marriage, living together in a top-floor New York City brownstone apartment. 
They are confronted with their personality differences; Corie, a free spirit, wonders why Paul, a strait-laced lawyer, can’t be more carefree and do things like running barefoot in the park. 
When the director Brett Mallard, a big fan of Neil Simon’s work, heard that the Majestic Theatre planned to produce Barefoot in the Park, he jumped at the opportunity to direct it. 
“The comedy in his writing is just brilliant,” he said. “The dialogue and situations are things we can relate to and picture happening to us. It’s something everyone can laugh at.” 
The play features 1960s pop culture references and period costumes and props, bestowing on Mallard the challenge of executing the play in a way that is still relatable to people who did not live through the ’60s — including its two young lead actors. 
“They were born long after the show was written and haven’t experienced some of that stuff,” Mallard said, “so I’ve had to bring my age and my understanding of that stuff to help them get the writer’s perceptions and observations and the intent that he had when he wrote it.” 
The entire play takes place in the couple’s apartment and is driven by dialogue. In rehearsals, the cast reads through the script repeatedly so that they are prepared to deliver the dialogue in a way that sounds natural and conversational. 
“The jokes aren’t presented as jokes; they’re presented in the dialogue itself, so the timing and pacing with the delivery of the lines is crucial,” Mallard said. “If you haven’t learned all the little nuances in [Neil Simon’s] writing, it’s easy to not get it right.” 
For actor Allan McPherson, the challenge of this play is to refrain from being too over-the-top. He plays the character Victor Velasco, the Bratters’ neighbor who lives in the attic of the building and can only enter his apartment by climbing through the Bratters’ window, and the love interest of Corie’s mother Ethel. 
“He’s a very eccentric guy, and with the way his character is written, there’s a tendency to go overboard,” McPherson said, “Later in the play, you find out that that part of his personality may be a wall that he’s put up towards meeting other people, so while he’s eccentric, I still have to hold back a bit and be careful not to go overboard.” 
McPherson said he has enjoyed developing a character who is very different from himself. 
He considers himself a “cautious and conservative type person,” while Victor Velasco, he said, is “a man of the world,” well-traveled, flirtatious, wearing garish suits and kimono robes and often referencing his varied occupational background, having allegedly been a gourmet chef and an interior decorator. 
“You have to find a small part of your personality that matches the character, then expand on it and create a whole person out of it,” he said. “I don’t know about many of these things that Victor knows about, but it’s fun to pretend and to expand on those parts of myself that are a little more out-there.” 

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