'Barefoot' celebrates ups and downs of marriage Troupe tackles Neil Simon comedy


Bonnie Webster and Brian Jacobs have very interesting summer jobs -- they are being paid to kiss passionately.

They are actors with the Theatre on the Hill troupe and portray newlyweds Corie and Paul Bratter in the production of the Neil Simon comedy "Barefoot in the Park."

"We just did 'Leader of the Pack' [another Theatre on the Hill production] and we were 'married' in that, too," Ms. Webster said. So kissing Mr. Jacobs in this play was easy because they've "had a lot of practice at it," she said.

The comedy chronicles the first 11 days of married life for the Bratters.

The couple exemplifies the saying that opposites attract.

"She's a nut," Ms. Webster said about her alter ego, Corie. "She's kind of flighty, free-spirited, energetic. He's sort of uptight, so it makes for an interesting match."

Said Mr. Jacobs: "Our characters are really extremes of what we are. [Paul Bratter] is very straight-laced, neat and orderly."

The play is set in the couple's new apartment.

The fifth-floor love nest is cramped; it has heating problems and a hole in the skylight.

Added to the stress of living in their first apartment is Corie's mother, Mrs. Banks, who's not quite ready to accept that her little girl has grown up.

"It's kind of a coming-of-age for the daughter and a letting-go for the mother," said Jean Burgess, who plays Mrs. Banks. "She's kind of the overbearing type, who is torn that her daughter is now married and out of the house."

Corie and Paul are not the only lovebirds in this play.

There is a plot, by Corie, to make a love connection between Mrs. Banks and the Bratters' eccentric, upstairs neighbor, Victor Velasco, played by Ray Ficca.

"It's not an easy task for the character," said Mr. Ficca about courting Mrs. Banks. "She's very straight and narrow."

Roland Burks has the coveted role of Jim in the coming production of "Big River."

His role as the deliveryman in "Barefoot" is slightly smaller.

"I deliver presents to the young bride from Lord and Taylor," he said with a laugh. "All I say is, 'Lord and Taylor.' "

Paramount Pictures released a movie based on the play in 1967 starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford.

The play opened on Broadway on Oct. 23, 1963, at the Biltmore Theatre. The cast members say they're trying their best to uphold the tradition of Neil Simon's comedies.

Mr. Jacobs thinks the audience will appreciate their efforts.

"I just really dig Neil Simon," he said.

"I think that people will get a real kick out of it."

"Barefoot in the Park" will be presented in Alumni Hall at Western Maryland College in Westminster, at 8 p.m. on July 15-18 and 22-24, and Aug. 1, 4, 5, 8, and 11-12. Tickets are $11.

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