Saturday, February 02, 2019

"Barefoot" by Kate Billingsley & Thomas G. Waites - by Black Rose Productions at the Gene Frankel Theatre - Through February 9th

"Barefoot" is a fascinating study of a love quadrangle - soon to become almost a pentagon when the Pizza Delivery Man (Trent Cox) is baked into the narrative - that at its core is an existential exploration of the meaning of life. The play opens with Sylvia (Playwright Kate Billingsley) arriving home, drenched from a downpour, and clearly verklempt. This quintessential Jewish American Princess dourly surveys her domain, which is filled with elegantly wrapped wedding gifts that have arrived in advance of her approaching nuptials.Before she has had a chance to collect herself, a knock is heard at the door, announcing the arrival of equally soaked Teddy (Elissa Klie). It seems that Sylvia has just caught Teddy kissing the groom-to-be, Robert (Judah Tobias), and Teddy wants to apologize and explain.

It is clear from the dual entrances of the protagonist and antagonist that the playwrights are showing us that "into every life a little rain must fall."  As the narrative develops, it becomes clear that this deluge of existential rainfall includes betrayal, obsessive compulsive behavior, mistrust, abuse of drugs and alcohol, clashes over socio-economic status, and verbal and psychological abuse.

Things take an interesting turn when the next knock on the door brings Robert and Marc (Will Rosenfelt) into the mix. Marc is Teddy's cuckolded finance, and he is not too pleased to learn that she has been fooling around with Robert. The playwrights do a commendable job of demonstrating the biblical principle of "straining at gnats and swallowing camels." A sign inside the front door commands those entering to remove their shoes and go barefoot in the home. Sylvia is trying to keep specks of dirt from marring her perfect world, but has no trouble later in the play trashing her own place by allowing cocaine to be snorted from her coffee table, and throwing and smashing fine china dishes in a fit of pique. Likewise, Sylvia and Robert's need to control is shown by their assiduous insistence on pronouncing February as "Feb-roo-ary," Perhaps they can control the enunciation of their tongues, but not much else.

The interplay among these four as they act out what happened during the betrayal is both hilarious and heart-breaking. The arrival of hipster Pizza Man adds a new element of homoerotic tension to the mix.

Co-playwright, Thomas G. Waites directs this quintet of actors with a deft touch, allowing each to establish a distinct persona. The actors are uniformly convincing in their roles. Despite their various peccadilloes, these are characters we come to care about, seeing through the fog of their ennui and nihilism. Several of the characters explicitly express the underlying theme of this play:"Does this existence of living, loving, betrayal, fighting, and dying ultimately have any meaning?"

Produced by Black Rose Productions, "Barefoot" runs through February 9th at the Gene Frankel Theatre at 24 Bond Street.



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