Barefoot in the Park sets high bar for Domino’s new season

First play of Theatre’s 67th year brings laughs and lessons to Kingston 

Dylan Chenier, Jason Bowen, Heather Hayhow, and Valerie Winslow in Domino Theatre’s production of Barefoot in the Park. 
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To kick off their 67th season, the first play on Domino Theatre’s new bill is a toast to fresh beginnings.

Neil Simon’s 1963 comedy Barefoot in the Park debuts at Domino Theatre on Sept. 5 at 7:30 p.m. The play follows newlywed New York couple Paul and Corie Bratter for an evening and the subsequent morning, six days after their honeymoon.

They slowly adjust back to regular life with work, decorating apartments, and fixing broken appliances. As they try to figure out life as a married couple, their differences in opinion about how they should be living become a point of tension.

The too-tiny apartment Corie picked poses challenges with furnishing the place and even just with moving around. Paul spends the evening preparing for his first day in court as a lawyer and, to his frustration, keeps getting distracted by his new wife.

The couple also meets up with Corie’s mother and their mysterious, ill-reputed upstairs neighbor for a trip to Staten Island for dinner, singing, and dancing.

Domino Theatre’s production stays true to both the original play and the film adaptation, though director Pauline Jodoin refused to watch either to avoid spoiling her vision.

Jodoin’s version of the play portrays Corie Bratter, played by Heather Hayhow in her first Domino production, as a positive and optimistic young bride.

Sure that everything will always work out just right, Hayhow’s Corie is bright and chipper—even when snow pours through a hole in her ceiling. No amount of broken phones, oven fires, or strange neighbors can rain on her blissful newlywed parade.

Contrasting his onstage partner, Queen’s student Dylan Chenier’s (ArtSci ’20) portrayal of Paul Bratter is hard-nosed, work-driven, and bitter throughout the whole play.

The couple quickly turns from being unable to take their hands off each other to screaming threats of divorce.

Hayhow and Chenier manage to remember all of their dialogue in the play—an impressive feat seeing as they spend most of the play onstage while the other characters come and go. Their line memorization is astounding, considering many of the lines are argumentative and don’t follow a reasonable line of logic.

Chenier said this was one of the more challenging aspects of acting, since he hasn’t been on stage in two years.

“There are a lot of scenes where it’s just me and my spouse on stage having long conversations and arguments for long periods of time. As an actor, that can get tricky when you’re having an argument that really goes nowhere,” said Chenier.

“Especially when you’re trying to think of what line comes next, the cue line that comes before your line doesn’t always make sense.”

Hayhow and Chenier’s quick humour and natural line delivery—even in a heated argument—kept the play engaging through the entire two-and-a-half-hour runtime.

Their performances are complimented by Valerie Winslow’s dry, morose humour as Corie Bratter’s mother, and Jason Bowen’s eccentric, loud and undistinguishably accented portrayal of the mysterious upstairs neighbor, Mr. Victor Velasco. Their unexpected budding romance balances out the newlywed’s naïve drama—emphasizing the point that all relationships have their highs and lows.

Tony Sturman’s character Harry Pepper, more often referred to as the telephone repairman, delivers one of the most philosophical lines of the play. After fixing the Bratters’ phone while the couple fights in the background, he tells Corie, “Telephones might break down every once in a while, but they always find a way of getting fixed.”

This line leads the play in a new direction, as the couple starts to slowly make up and recover from their first married fight.

The play’s positive ending and the lesson learned by the young couple will likely resonate with audiences.

“At first you think it’s dated because it takes place in the 1960s, but so many of the same kind of issues that we’re facing are just the same as today in relationships between family, with neighbors, and with friends. It’s all really the same,” said Winslow.

Bowen added, “As a married man myself, I can say that I’ve gone through many of the exact same situations with my wife.”

The actors’ assurance that audience members will relate to the family drama in the play holds true. With only a few members in the audience for their rehearsal run-through, there was rarely a line recited that didn’t get a laugh.

Kingston audiences can see the play at Domino Theatre, 52 Church St., from Sept 5 to 7, 12 to 14, and 19 to 20 at 7:30 p.m., or on Sept. 21 at 2 p.m.

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