Corrections or additions?

This article by Jack Florek was prepared for the July 4, 2001

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Summer Theater Redux

Since its founding in 1968, the Princeton Summer

Theater

has provided grist for memories. Like ice cold lemonade, a hot dog

at a ballgame, or long days basking on the beach, it has become a

real part of many area residents’ collective memories.

Combining undergraduate students — or "pre-professionals"

as they prefer to be called — with veteran area actors, the

Princeton

Summer Theater is a hybrid, poised between community theater and

student

production.

But PST was shutdown after the summer of 1998 because its home,

Hamilton

Murray Theater on the Princeton University campus, was in dire need

of renovations. Now, after two dark summers and a $1 million

refurbishing

of the theater, the Princeton Summer Theater has returned with a

line-up

of four main shows, and one children’s show, promising a little

something

for everybody.

The season opens with Neil Simon’s "Barefoot in the Park,"

a light comedy about a newlywed couple that is entertaining despite

a lightweight storyline. The celebratory production opened Thursday,

June 21, and performances continue July 5 through 8.

The play opens on the newlywed Bratters and their first day in their

new apartment, a fifth-floor walk-up in New York City. As Corie

Bratter

(played by Erin Gilley) excitedly waits for her husband Paul (Clifford

Sofield) to come home, she is briefly visited by a nervous phone

company

employee (Ben Beckley), who installs the phone and leaves her with

these comforting words, "May your first call be from the

sweepstakes."

When Paul finally arrives home, huffing and puffing after treading

up the five flights of stairs (the playwright’s running gag that soon

grows tired), he is less than enthusiastic about the modest merits

of their apartment. Nevertheless the newlyweds are soon trading

lovey-dovey

patter about their work day, their recent hotel honeymoon, and the

weird neighbors who also inhabit the Brownstone apartment house.

Corie’s lonely mother, Ethel (Debbie Goodkin), visits, and Corie

decides

to do a little match-making by fixing her up with one of the other

residents, the eccentric Victor Flask (Joe Pennino). But after both

couples share a night out together on the town, cracks begin to open

between the Bratters, and both Corie and Paul begin to reassess their

recent marriage vows.

Erin Gilley and Clifford Sofield make a nice couple.

Gilley is appropriately flighty as the newly wedded wife, talking

non-stop and buzzing around the apartment like a hepped-up honeybee.

Sofield, as the seemingly more practical hubby, is equally likable,

managing to dampen his wife’s enthusiasms without becoming boorish.

Both actors successfully tread the thin line between being engaging

and annoying — something not always easy to do in a comedy so

short on plot.

Debbie Goodkin and Joe Pennino also make a good pair. Despite a marked

difference in ages, both manage to highlight their characters’

sometimes

brittle self-deceptions with a light and airy touch. By emphasizing

the comedy and staying away from the pit of sentimentality, both

actors

meld nicely together and give their characters an amiable stage life.

Ben Beckley brings a nice comic touch to his small part as the

well-meaning

phone repairman. He displays an innate knowledge of just when to

deliver

a line, and when to hold back and let the expression on his face

generate

the laughs. Joshua Aaron Robinson as the delivery man is also

effective.

Sarah Rodriguez does a fine job directing the show, giving it a nice

pace and allowing the humor to rise naturally out of the dialogue.

She also has the good sense to give the more saccharine elements of

the script a respectable short shift. Also, the cast is extremely

well rehearsed, always a mark of a good director.

PST’s second offering this summer is Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim

Rice’s

biblical musical, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor

Dreamcoat"

playing in repertory to July 22. Shakespeare’s courtship comedy,

"Much Ado About Nothing" will be staged July 27 to August

12. "The Effect of Gamma Rays on the Man-in-the-Moon

Marigolds,"

Paul Zindel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, closes the season with

performances August 2 to 5, and 16 to 19. "Pegora the Witch,"

a play for children, plays July 7, 14, 21, August 4, and 11, at 2

p.m.

The PST’s return is especially welcome on a somewhat bleak summer

theatrical landscape. With the current hiatus of Princeton Rep’s

annual

Shakespeare Festival, its two full-scale productions presented so

effectively last year in the outdoor amphitheater at Pettoranello

Gardens, the season looks pretty thin. With its amiable mix of young

actors and community theater veterans, Princeton Summer Theater helps

to fill the bill quite nicely — with talent, high energy, and

what Groucho Marx would call, good old-fashioned "ha-cha-cha."

— Jack Florek

Princeton Summer Theater , Hamilton Murray Theater,

Princeton

University, 609-258-7062. $12.50 adults; $10 seniors; $7 students.

Barefoot in the Park , Neil Simon’s comedy, continues to

Sunday, July 8. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,

continues to Sunday, July 22. Much Ado About Nothing,

Shakespeare’s

comedy directed by Sarah Rodriguez, July 27 to August 12. The

Effect

of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, August 2 to 19.


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