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
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
Summer Theater is a hybrid, poised between community theater and
But PST was shutdown after the summer of 1998 because its home,
Murray Theater on the Princeton University campus, was in dire need
of renovations. Now, after two dark summers and a $1 million
of the theater, the Princeton Summer Theater has returned with a
of four main shows, and one children’s show, promising a little
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
(played by Erin Gilley) excitedly waits for her husband Paul (Clifford
Sofield) to come home, she is briefly visited by a nervous phone
employee (Ben Beckley), who installs the phone and leaves her with
these comforting words, "May your first call be from the
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
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
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’
brittle self-deceptions with a light and airy touch. By emphasizing
the comedy and staying away from the pit of sentimentality, both
meld nicely together and give their characters an amiable stage life.
Ben Beckley brings a nice comic touch to his small part as the
phone repairman. He displays an innate knowledge of just when to
a line, and when to hold back and let the expression on his face
the laughs. Joshua Aaron Robinson as the delivery man is also
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
biblical musical, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor
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
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
The PST’s return is especially welcome on a somewhat bleak summer
theatrical landscape. With the current hiatus of Princeton Rep’s
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
University, 609-258-7062. $12.50 adults; $10 seniors; $7 students.
Sunday, July 8.
continues to Sunday, July 22.
comedy directed by Sarah Rodriguez, July 27 to August 12.
of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, August 2 to 19.
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