Thursday, October 19, 2017

Review: Laughs Galore at Chatham Players

After several years and 300 plus play reviews we still marvel that the line between professional and community theater in New Jersey is so frequently blurred. This past Sunday afternoon at the Chatham Playhouse we saw an outstanding production of Neil Simon’s now classic comedy, Barefoot in the Park. Far from being an outdated 1960’s play, this story was just as relevant today, even with the sprinkle of references to the period.

bare coupleThe cast, under the direction of Michael Hegarty, includes Crystal Ann Bennet as the carefree bride Corie; Matthew Cronin as Paul a freshman lawyer (photo right); Arnold Buchaine as the unconventional neighbor-in-the attic, Velasco; Joyce Slous as Ethel Banks, Corie’s omnipresent mother; Dominick DeNucci as the Telephone Repairman; and Chip Prestera as the Delivery Man. They are giving Broadway level performances.

 In fact, this production could easily move across the river and compete with the best of Off-Broadway. Again, remember the Chatham Players is a community theater group, not a professional (paid) Equity company.

It is important to note that comedies can be ranked based on the type of laughs they generate. It can range from a giggle to a chuckle to unrestrained laughter all the way to the loud hearty belly laugh. Chatham Players Barefoot in the Park clearly delivers in the latter category…belly laughs, aplenty.
Do you remember the plot from the 1967 movie with Robert Redford, and Jane Fonda? The many challenges or adjustments facing a young newly married couple today are still the same. In this case, the question is “Can Corie and Paul survive starting married life in a tiny, 5th-floor walkup apartment in a Manhattan brownstone with a lack of heat, a skylight that leaks snow, several long flights of stairs, oddball neighbor Victor Velasco, and Corie's well-meaning mother? Spoiler Alert: the answer is YES.
bare tel
Crystal Ann Bennet and Matthew Cronin nicely nail their parts. The supporting players are all outrageous, major contributors to the belly laugh department. First, is Dominick DeNucci as the Telephone Repairman (photo above). When he arrives, severely out of breath, Corie says: “Yes, it’s five flights. If you don’t count the front stoop” Repairman:” I counted the front stoop.”
Arnold Buchaine is marvelous as Velasco, blessed with some of the best lines. Joyce Slous has fun as Corie’s mother. Her arrival after surviving the climb may be worth the price of admission alone. Then there is Chip Prestera, a Chatham Players’ comedy treasure, as the super exhausted deliverer of wedding gifts. He proves that there is no such thing as a small part. His one scene is a gem. (Note: Chip alternates with Howard Fisher in this role).
bare group
Director Hegarty explains that, “Barefoot in the Park has stood the test of time as one of Neil Simon's most enduring plays. Since its premier on Broadway in 1963, followed four years later by a film adaptation (as well as a short-lived sitcom), it has remained a mainstay in professional and amateur theaters across the country. What make this play so universal are its themes of love and compatibility, as well as its focus on conventionality versus unconventionality. It truly is a classic.”

The creative team includes: the Producer is Mara Lundstrom, Production Coordinator Tom McDonald, Scenic Designer Sean McCarthy, Stage Manager Nicole Miceli, Costume Designer Bev Wand, Lighting Designer Richard Hennessy and original music is composed and performed by the Sound Designer, Joe DeVico.

Reviewed by Rick Busciglio October 15, 2017

Box Office Information – Online Ticketing
The two remaining performance dates are October 20 and 21 at 8pm. Performances are at the Chatham Playhouse, 23 North Passaic Avenue, in Chatham. Tickets are $25 for adults and $23 for youth/senior.

Tickets can be purchased at our Box Office or Online. To access the theater’s new online ticketing service, where you can now reserve your particular seat, simply go to The service is available 24 hours a day, and tickets can be purchased online up until three hours prior to curtain on the day of a performance. For phone reservations call  (973) 635-7363.

Note: There isn't a bad seat in the house. The audience is seated on three sides, in this not quite, theater-in-the-round. Parking is free and plentiful. The theater is blessed with a good number of truly excellent restaurants within easy walking of the theater, as is the Chatham train station with express service to NYC.



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