Playwright Neil Simon died in 2018 and two years later, Brent Sigman has decided to honor him by bringing one of Simon’s most famous plays — “Barefoot in the Park” — to the Junction City Little Theater stage.
“Because I have been such a huge fan of his I wanted to do a show and tribute to to his memory and how much of an influence his work has been on in my theater career,” Sigman said.
The show — a romantic comedy — tells the story of newlyweds Corie and Paul Bratter and their interactions with a few of their oddball neighbors. The two, who could not be more opposite, have just moved into their first apartment together — a small sixth-floor, walk-up apartment in a Greenwich Village brownstone.
According to Sigman, it was Simon’s first big production and the show that kickstarted the famous playwright’s career.
The show, Sigman said, is ideal for a Valentine’s Day production.
“it’s a great excuse for a date night or Valentine’s Day,” he said. “Something different that you might not think about.”
He praised the small cast.
“It’s definitely a very popular show,” Sigman said. “And with this cast — they put some great spins on the characters that maybe they haven’t seen before. And again — it’s around Valentine’s Day. Come out and have a great night and support your local arts.”
Brittany Lamb, who plays Corie, said “Barefoot in the Park” is one of her all-time favorite plays. Ever since she saw a Little Theater production of it in the 1990s, she said, she has loved it.
So when the Little Theater took the play up again, Lamb knew she had to audition.
“I knew that if I didn’t audition the next time around, I wouldn’t be young enough to play Corie,” Lamb said. “And so I had to try. And so I’m grateful that (Sigman) has taken a chance on me and let me do this character.”
Lamb said she had to loosen her body language to properly bring the character to life onstage.
“I’ve had to kind of really work on my movement, my body movements, and being more free with my body and that’s been that’s been challenging for me,” she said.
Cory Jennett, who plays the role of Paul, said he enjoys working with the small cast.
“There’s only four roles where we are all bouncing off of each other so much,” he said. “And that energy just kind of loops in on itself and we all build off of each other and it creates a lot of that comedy that Neil Simon’s always looking for. And the four actors that we have in those major roles are all really talented and really have been experienced in theater. And we’ve all really enjoyed each other’s company.”
While Jennett finds his character’s rigidity difficult to convey on stage at times, he said he believes audiences will find the character’s struggles to leave his comfort zone easy to identify with.
“I think the most identifiable part of Paul is the struggle to experience new things, we all have that comfort zone that we want to stay close to,” Jennett said. “And then breaking out of it is really a challenge for everyone. But that’s what helps us grow. And by the end of this play, Paul grow significantly even though it’s through this argument that Paul and Corie have together.”
He hopes people will come see the show for the “timeless” comedy of it and to support the community.
“I think just coming out to support the community is so important to do as well, in every aspect,” Jennett said “Not just the arts but in other things as well.”
The play runs two weekends in a row at the C.L. Hoover Opera House. It takes place Feb. 7 and 8 and Feb. 14 and 15 at 7:30 p.m. and at 2 p.m. Feb. 9 and 16. Tickets are available online, at the door or by calling the opera house at 785-238-3906.