Romance and Laughter Take the Stage

Corie and Paul Bratter are a newlywed couple settling into their new brownstone in New York City. However, a few days into their marriage, the Bratters’ differing personalities begin to clash in unexpected ways, and Neil Simon’s romantic comedy “Barefoot in the Park” is the result.

Set to take the Alford Auditorium stage March 21 at 7 p.m., the senior theatre project (STP) of Lauren (Ren) Holtzem and Kristyna Zaharek promises to welcome the audience with a riotous performance.

“The audience will laugh at least 15 times, but also feel every emotion,” said Zaharek, who plays the free-spirited Corie. “They’ll feel a part of the family, even in the back row.”

Sarah Largent, the production’s stage manager, ran across the play and recommended it to Zaharek, and Zaharek to Holtzem (who directs the production), as a possible script for their STP.

The choice, then, was simple. “It’s Neil Simon,” Zaharek said.

Zaharek said she and Holtzem work well together on their joint STP because of their complementing working styles.

“Ren likes to eat the cake, while I like the process of making it,” she said. “In the end, we both enjoy the cake.”

Drew Poplin, a sophomore theatre major, plays opposite Zaharek as Corie’s sensible husband, Paul. Poplin said the greatest challenge was getting acquainted with a new kind of role on stage as someone’s husband.

“This is one of my first romantic roles,” Poplin said. “A lot of it was just getting to know Kristyna and just getting comfortable.”

Poplin said another challenge was trying to make Paul a likable character while at the same time being snarky and humorous without coming across as being too much of a jerk. Still, Poplin said he has learned through the role more about how to love others even when it is difficult.

“(Corie and Paul) are two completely different personalities,” he said. “One lesson I take from it is that just because you’re complete opposites with someone doesn’t mean you can’t get along with them. There’s power in loving each other, in selfless love.”

Holtzem said the role of the director is a rewarding but exhausting experience.

“The most surprising thing for me while directing this show is just how stressful directing is and how fast time goes,” she said. “You start out so enthusiastic and thinking you have lots of time, and before you know it, faculty preview is the next day and you feel like you still have so much more to do.”

Rounding out the six-person cast is Adam Silorey (as Victor Velasco), Amy Brown (as Corie’s mother, Ethel), Calvin Hitchcock (as the telephone repairman) and Casey Cundall (as the delivery man), with Kayleigh Clark as the play’s assistant stage manager.

Zaharek credits the show with teaching her to take herself less seriously and to revel in the camaraderie and inside jokes that make these projects so memorable.

Poplin echoed this sentiment, saying, “I love working with everyone. It’s been awesome to develop relationships with these people. I think that’s one reason why I enjoy working on STPs.”

In the end, Holtzem said she hopes “Barefoot in the Park” sheds light on the complex nature of relationships, illustrating the inherent need for understanding between the two parties.

“The audience should expect to laugh and be challenged to give up some of themselves for the other person,” Holtzem said. “Marriage and relationships in general aren’t easy, and I want the audience to see that and have their eyes open to sacrifice.”

Roger Gelwicks is a senior technical and professional communication major and an arts & entertainment writer for Cedars. He believes that honey badgers are vastly overrated and that a Komodo dragon could take one on any day.

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