‘Barefoot in the Park’ promises laughs, surprises

By Emily M. Hobbs Staff Writer

March 19, 2014

“Barefoot in the Park,” an award winning play by Neil Simon, is coming to Sampson Community Theatre in April, and the mature romantic comedy will have a special element of surprise as well as a cast full of energy.

“This play hit the boards in 1963,” said director Tom Wilbur in an interview Monday. “It’s about a young couple who are newlyweds.” In the Neil Simon comedy, the husband, Paul Bratter, is a lawyer who just passed the bar and his wife, Corie, is vivacious and spontaneous. Corie’s personality is in direct contrast to her conservative husband, who wouldn’t go running barefoot in the park with her.

Those visiting and living in the fifth floor apartment, where the play is set, feel the exhaustion from climbing all those stairs, and that theme is pervasive throughout the play, Wilbur explained. The cast of characters is not massive, but that does not diminish the vivid energy of the cast. The Monday night rehearsal was Act 3.

“There is a Romanian upstairs,” added Wilbur. Wilbur explained that Corie tries to set the Romanian up with her mother, despite the fact that he hasn’t paid his rent in four months and climbs through a skylight window to get to his attic apartment.

Victor Velasco, who is the Romanian, will be played by Gary Wilson, and Ethel Banks, Corie’s mother, will be played by Gretta Steffens.

“There is also a delivery man, an added twist to the play because a mystery person will take on the role each performance,” Wilbur detailed. “The people we will use, the audience will recognize them.”

Also on stage is a framed picture of Bobby Stevens, who was a friend of Tom Wilbur’s who was the first person to die of anthrax poisoning in the 2001 attacks.

“His picture in every show I do now,” said Wilbur. “I never got him on stage.” Wilbur said he tried to get his friend to perform but never could convince him, so now his picture is worked into the setting as a prop.

Jessica Watts, the stage manager, said she has worked on all of Wilbur’s plays except one. The Monday night group was pleased with the setting of the stage even though there are still decisions to be made and items to be placed.

“She makes me look good,” Wilbur stated appreciatively of Watts, also noting, “And, the actors make me look good, too.”

Paul Bratter is being played by Nick Owen, and Corie is being portrayed by Erica Miller. The telephone repairman Harry Pepper, who is being played by Melvin, shows up in the first and last acts.

Melvin said that he has been acting in community theater plays since 1997, and that this is 65th show.

“I’ve never done ‘Barefoot in the Park’ before,” he pointed out. “It’s a funny show.” He said that even though he has a bit part he enjoys acting and being a part of a great cast.

“I remember when Nick and Erica first started,” he added. “As for Tom Wilbur, I couldn’t think of a better man to work for.”

“It’s coming along well,” said Wilbur.” Erica Miller is a delight. She has such great energy. It’s going to be great and I get tired just watching her.”

“It’s hilarious,” said Owen. “You get every single emotion in three acts.”

The play will be held April 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 8 p.m., with matinee performances April 13 and 20 at 3 p.m. For more information call 910-990-6424 or 910-336-4158.

Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at