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No Refund Theatre Presents: ‘Barefoot In The Park’

No Refund Theatre is back again with the final production of its fall catalog. This week, the organization presents “Barefoot in the Park,” a heartwarming tale of love and laughter guaranteed to stir up smiles with timeless delight.

Written by Neil Simon and directed by third-year student Lauren Bauer, Barefoot in the Park tells the story of Corie and Paul Bratter, a newlywed couple recently relocated to a shoebox apartment in the 1960s. Fresh from a luxurious, six-day honeymoon at the Plaza Hotel, the couple sets out to start their new life with the best intentions but finds that married life presents a few more challenges than either had anticipated.

Combining Corie’s zest for life and Paul’s disciplined ways, the couple quickly realizes that their daily problems range far beyond the lack of furniture, broken telephone, and tiny bedroom all within their overpriced apartment. While the inside of their home is borderline artic in the February winter due to a hole in the ceiling, the outside presents another jarring surprise in the form of a new neighbor- the eccentric Mr. Victor Velasco, an older gentlemen with an even crazier way of living that the young bride downstairs.

With a wild neighbor, visiting mother-in-law, and homely apartment where everything works backwards (or not at all), the young couple faces life’s challenges head-on, displaying actions and consequences to make even the quietest audience belly laugh through each act. As reality wipes away that newlywed glow, Corie and Paul see the world and each other just as they truly are, and comically discover a truth of life: While there may be traffic in the form of life’s obstacles, love is a two-way street, only cleared when both parties are willing to compromise.

Upon the return to in-person rehearsals and live theatre this season, the pure joy of performing back on the stage for an audience is palpable within Forum. Originally set to open back earlier in the semester, the production comes to campus as the ultimate heartwarming tale, just in time for the cold snap of the December season in State College.

“We were originally supposed to be in October, which gave us a lot of time to develop our characters,” director Lauren Bauer said. “I think it really allowed everyone to dive deeper into their relationships with others.”

Annie Kubiak | Onward State

In tackling these complex relationships with everyday charm and comedic timing, the actors looked to classic NRT values as not only cast members, but friends turned family.

“In the show, relationships take teamwork and collaboration. Then, in this cast, you need to be able to rely on each other and work together [to] build those relationships and trust,” fourth-year student and assistant director Riley Herman shared.

With the value of teamwork and collaboration clear from the very beginning of the process back in April, the team bonded together to form relationships off-stage for an even stronger performance.

“With relationships like this, you have to have that deeper connection personally with the other person you’re acting with, or it’s not going to click, since it’s all so real,” director Lauren Bauer said.

In working with her production team, Bauer says she strived to create an open, welcoming environment within the cast. Ripe with NRT values of inclusivity, the director reflected on the genial community within each cast rehearsal.

“I’ve never been in a space that just lit up with that much energy. It was just a really safe space, and one of the best environments I’ve gotten to work in,” she said.

Echoing Bauer’s sentiments of friendship within the cast, Herman continued to emphasize the value of teamwork within the production process. Originally disrupted by the pandemic at the beginning of the process, the team was even more grateful for the relationships both displayed onstage and flourishing behind the scenes.

“With COVID, we didn’t know how it was going to happen,” Herman said.

Yet, the cast pulled together, and pulled through for a rewarding rehearsal process and fulfilling performance.

“With each rehearsal, just catching more and more of what the final product was going to look like was just exhilirating,” Herman continued. “It’s so exciting to be able to interact with an audience and have that energy in the room again.”

In finally returning to live theatre once again, senior Lyndsey Carr elaborated on another emotion when back on stage. The director of the previous NRT production “The Vagina Monologues,” Carr returned to the stage for the first time in almost two years as Corie Bratter.

“It was a little terrifying…I think the first run through we did, I was so petrified,” she said.

Yet even with these initial nerves, Carr persevered and leaned on her castmates to conquer the challenging role with dynamic emotions. In playing this role opposite Sean Terrey, a fourth-year portraying her on-stage husband, Carr drew upon some real-life inspiration of the past.

“Sean Terrey and I were actually roommates our sophomore year,” she shared. “So I think that really helped us…I think we were great roommates, but of course, we bickered.”

Much like their roles as roommates, Carr and Terrey showed comfortability on stage and effortlessly told the classic story. Portraying husband and wife, the duo demonstrated the ups and down of modern relationships with the ease of old friends.

As one of the main characters within the plot and an expert on the Bratters’ relationship, senior Sean Terrey also shared his take Paul and Corie’s whirlwind marriage, providing advice on how the couple works despite their complex differences.

“Knowing when to compromise is important, especially for people that are in college experiencing relationships and getting into that stuff for sometimes the first time,” Terrey said.

When presenting Barefoot in the Park to the Penn State community, stage manager and senior Liv Marshall shed light on the importance of both giving and taking within all relationships, sharing an inspired perspective directly from the production.

“One of my favorite lines of the show is, ‘Even when I didn’t like you, I loved you,'” Marshall said. “Relationships are hard,[and] especially as young people, you don’t realize it.”

“And in the first act, you see Corie and Paul as this wonderful, perfect couple, like, ‘How could anything ever go wrong for them?'” she continued. “We’ll see as the story progresses that it all goes wrong for them, and they really have a moment of ‘Are we meant to be together?'”

In this considering this final question presented onstage, Marshall drew a conclusion for the moment of decision between the newlywed couple.

“Love will hold us together, but it is hard,” Marshall said. “I really hope people take that away from the show.”

In tandem with Marshall’s emphasis on the strength of love within difficult relationships, Bauer, the director, took this idea one step further. Applying art to life, Bauer explained just how far love can take people, if only they are brave enough to form connection within a world of differences.

“We can overcome obstacles. Differences do not define us. We can find love within one another by digging a little deeper,” she said.

With a clear message of inclusivity and NRT values brillantly interwined, meaningful relationships clearly blossomed outside of the show. Freshman Angelina Smith, who portrayed the role of comedic mother-in-law Ethel, shared her experience as a brand new member of NRT fulfilling a lead role in the production.

“I genuinely don’t think I could have asked for a better way to start this,” Smith said. “I’m very grateful that I ended up in the same room with the people that I’m with now.”

With life imitating art so clearly within Forum 111, second-year Jacob Malizio also echoed joy as both performer and friend.

“This has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in this club,” he said.

In a role that required extreme confidence and enduring commitment, Malizio faced the challenge with the support of his fellow cast members and production team. Portraying the hilarious Victor Velasco as a triumphant combination of charm and chaos, Malizio drew inspiration from classic comedians like Borat and Alexander Lemtov of Eurovision to bring the joy back to live theater.

“It’s definitely an evening of laughs,” he said.

Chuckling all the way through the three acts, the audience can expect to experience the purest form of community joy, all while learning a lifelong truth.

“There’s no such thing as a perfect relationship, but as long as the people care about each other…That’s the most important part,” junior and assistant director Alison Shifflett said.

Reflecting on the importance of geniune connection, Shifflett elaborated on this conclusion within overcoming the challenges of creating the production.

“We came together with a whole booklet of words and we really turned it into a show,” she said. “It’s turned into something wonderful, and I couldn’t be more proud.”

A hilarious commentary on classic relationships, Barefoot in the Park presents a timeless story of love, laughter, and light-hearted good will. Full of realism yet serving as the perfect escape, this warm tale comes to campus right on time. Amid the gray sky, freezing temperatures, and stress of the upcoming finals week, Barefoot in the Park serves to stir up joy through comedic truth, making Happy Valley just a bit happier in the last days of the fall semester.

You can catch Barefoot in the Park in Forum 111 at 9 p.m. on Thursday, December 2, and at 8 p.m. on Friday, December 3, and Saturday, December 4. As always, all performances are free of charge.

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About the Author

Lizzie Palmieri

Lizzie is a sophomore with an undecided major from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Ask her about Disney World, Diet Pepsi, or dancing on the Jumbotron at Beaver Stadium. When not causing general trouble, Lizzie enjoys playing golf, performing in theatre, and being the CEO of reorganizing the fridge. Her favorite thing to do is hang with her sassy sidekick, 17-year-old Italian Greyhound, Macaroni. Follow her on Twitter @lizziepalmieri if your deepest desire is bestie vibes only.

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