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Camelot Theatre stages ‘Barefoot in the Park’

Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park” is the classic romantic comedy about freshly minted, button-down-type lawyer, Paul, and his free-spirited, flower-child wife, Corie. The couple have just returned from a weeklong honeymoon and begin to set up housekeeping in a somewhat battered fifth-floor walk-up when the differences in their personalities come to light. The sticky spots in their relationship are further confused by the quirky and entertaining characters around them.

“Barefoot in the Park” opened in 1963 on Broadway, starring Robert Redford as its leading man opposite Elizabeth Ashley as the high-spirited Corie. The play was an immediate success and ran for more than 1,500 performances before closing in 1967, making it Neil Simon’s longest running hit. The New York Times called it “bubbling, rib-tickling comedy.”

It continues to be a popular choice for theater groups and has seen both film and television adaptations in various forms.

Camelot Theatre’s production previews Thursday, May 3, opens Friday, May 4, and runs through Sunday, May 20, at the community theater, 101 Talent Ave., Talent. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sundays. Preview tickets are $20. All other tickets are $27 or $34. A benefit performance for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Tudor Guild will be at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 9. Tickets and information are available at camelottheatre.org or 541-535-5250. New Camelot artistic director Shawn Ramagos and Brianna Gowland co-direct “Barefoot in the Park.”

“I just started with Camelot’s last production of ‘Spotlight on Tina and Janis’ after accepting the position from Camelot’s nationwide search for an artistic director,” Ramagos says. “Brianna was slated to direct this show, and after speaking in our first production meeting and after finding out physical comedy is one of my specialties, we decided to co-direct this one together.”

“Shawn has been really a huge help,” Gowland says. “He’s improved it in places where I can’t.”

It’s been a process that’s included hilarious moments during rehearsal that Ramagos and Gowland are confident will translate to the audience as well.

“The interesting thing about Simon’s writing is that it’s extremely funny when performed and directed correctly, but just reading the script for face value is never the answer,” Ramagos says. “You have to challenge the cast to look for the hidden meaning in things and pull the comedy out.”

Gowland agrees, saying, “It’s very easy to find a bad version of ‘Barefoot in the Park.’ It’s a very intelligent comedy — Neil Simon’s writing is very witty — so a lot of the humor is hidden.”

As the young couple’s love nest is invaded by an over-anxious mother-in-law, the aging ladies’ man next door, and a delivery man bringing his own hijinks to the plot, it’s the physicality of the comedy that cements it together into what Gowland describes as “a heartfelt, refreshing and uplifting story.”

Camelot’s cast of “Barefoot” features familiar faces, as well as new talent.

“We have two newcomers to our stage: Adam Kilgore and Jessica Mengel,” Ramagos says.

Kilgore and Mengel play newlyweds Paul and Corie Bratter and are supported by Linda Otto as Corie’s mother, Ethel Banks. David Alonso plays Harry Pepper, George Herkert plays the delivery man, and Sean Warren is Victor Velasco.

Ramagos also serves as set designer, Anthony Ascencio is costume designer, Evan Carbone is lighting designer, and Brian O’Connor is sound and video designer.

“Even if you have seen this show before, I will say you are in for a night full of fun and laughs with this cast,” Ramagos says. “It’s full of physical comedy.”