Tuesday, October 03, 2023

'Barefoot in The Park' performed in Plains

by Douglas Wilks Clark Fork Valley
| February 1, 2017 4:00 AM

The Jean Morrison family and the Plains Public Schools brought the Montana Repertory Theatre to Plains Monday, Jan 23 to begin their 50th Anniversary tour. The professional acting company first stopped in Plains with “The Rainmaker in 1989, making this the 28th year Plains has been the first stop on the national tour. Jean Morrison, Plains Public Schools and Montana Repertory Theatre helped bring the production of “Barefoot in the Park” to life. The play is a delightful and sometimes uncomfortable look at the struggles of a recently newlywed couple and the people they meet in their New York brownstone apartment.

The play opens with Corie Bratter (Whitney Miller) fussing and fretting over the sparse and very small apartment, which contains several suitcases, a bouquet of flowers, and no furniture. Moments later she hears someone climbing the last stairs to the apartment and she excitedly rushes in the hope that the furniture has arrived. She is soon disappointed to learn that it is only the telephone service man (Colton Swibold) there to connect her phone service. A delivery man (Mark Kuntz) arrives completely out of breath, wheezing and carrying several large packages. Several moments later her husband, Paul Bratter (Hunter S. Hash) enters exhausted from climbing the six flights of stairs, which is actually “Only five flights if you don’t count the stoop.” As the play continues we are introduced to the very eccentric, “perhaps crazy” Victor Velasco (Mark Kuntz) who lives in the attic above the Bratter apartment and is either 56 or 58 years old, depending upon who he is talking with at the moment. The new bride’s mother, Ethel Banks (Laurie Dawn) stops by for a quick visit and is unknowingly set upby her daughter for a blind date with Mr. Velasco. From there the play is filled with hilarious moments, as well as some tense discussions between the Bratters.

The set was decorated to resemble an apartment from the 1960s, with many bright orange and yellow colors on much of the furnishings; the large floor rug, two large lamps, the art on the wall, and a very large clock with wooden spokes around the face. The style of the clothes was also set in the same era; high waist bands on the pants of the men and suit jackets that are one solid brown color. The dresses worn by the female actors contained very different colors and styles that were very bold and vivid, appearing to resemble colors from a technocolor film. The set designer and crew clearly spent a great deal of time researching, finding, and creating the set decorations, furniture, and clothes to help recreate the feel of the 1960s.

Much of the dialogue was filled with subtle innuendos, silences, a few long pauses, and non-verbal facial reactions by the actors in response to what was done or said by another actor on the stage. The verbal exchanges by the actors were very well done, often there was one or two phrases which were repeated and began to be expected from that character. For example. Paul Bratter who is a young lawyer always had “A case early in the morning.” Corie was often concerned about her “Lonely mother who lives alone, way out in New Jersey.” Mrs. Ethel Banks, Corie’s mother was often commenting about the look of Corie’s “Very charming apartment.” as she walked around noticing how small the apartment is for the newlyweds. Mr. Velasco had the most interesting lines in the play, often pronouncing words with such a thick accent that it was difficult to pin down his nationality.

During a talk back session after the play the audience asked the actors questions about the play and the amount of time spent together rehearsing. Stage Manager Hope Rose Kelly replied to a question, “We are still working on the transitions of the set during the intermissions and trying to get things perfect.” Company Manager Cahilan Shine stated, “The cast and crew began rehearsing on January 2nd of this year. We have two University of Montana students on stage, Whitney Miller and Hunter S. Hash.”

Montana Repertory Theatre company will continue to travel across the United States performing “Barefoot in the Park” and finish the national tour in April.

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