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‘Barefoot in the Park’ closes Williams Street season

Williams Street Repertory ends its season with Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park.”

Directed by Regina Belt-Daniels of Crystal Lake, the production runs from May 2-11 at Raue Center For The Arts in Crystal Lake. Show times are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sunday.

Belt-Daniels has served on the TownSquare Players Board for 30 years and has had four childrens’ plays published with writing partner Mary Fetzner. She has directed 12 shows at the Woodstock Opera House and other shows at Elgin Community College.

She directed Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” for Woodstock Opera House and had seen “Barefoot in the Park” several times. (And the movie once, although she discouraged her actors from seeing it.)

“Barefoot in the Park” is about a couple of newlyweds, Paul and Corie Bratter. Corie is a free spirit and Paul is an uptight lawyer. It’s set in 1963 Greenwich Village.

“The whole thing takes place over a few days in their apartment. Corie’s mom is named Ethel and she comes in from New Jersey. And they have a very eccentric neighbor named Victor that lives upstairs. Basically what happens is they have a very big fight and Corie wants a divorce, and they haven’t even gotten the marriage license yet.

“Victor and Ethel kind of fall for each other after they go out for a night of drinking and dining. It’s just one of his light-hearted romantic comedies. It’s very happy. It’s basically about a strange night out and the events that follow. And Corie has to think about whether or not she and Paul are going to make it.”

The action of the play is set in February, but Belt-Daniels believes it’s a great Mother’s Day play because of the close relationship between Corie and Ethel.

She chose to keep it in 1963 because so many lines would have had to have been changed.

“And I’m a purist. I like to keep things the way the author intended,” she said.

As a director, she guides her actors and encourages experimentation and to trust their instincts, she said.

“I really believe that actors have to make characters their own,” she said. “I really let them try things, and if they go over the top, I’ll pull them in. I like to ask a lot of questions. The first time we sat down for a read-through, I said I want a lot of back story on your character. It’s almost like a recipe with putting in the very best ingredients. I am just so lucky because I really have a brilliant cast. Every single one of them is just excellent.”

She hopes that if nothing else, that the audience leaves the theater laughing.

“I want them to laugh. I want them to enjoy themselves and go away feeling good about the relationships they have in their lives,” she said. “It’s not a play that makes you think. You’re not going to go away and have heavy thoughts. I just want you to feel warm and comfortable and have a really great time.”

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