MOONBOX Productions may be only a few years old, but they’ve shot to the top of the list of best fringe companies. (That’s “shooting the moon” in Hearts.) When you consider buying a Moonbox ticket, you know two things. First, they put their money where their heart is: Each time out, they partner with a non-profit community group. This fall it’s “Summer Search,” a national youth development group, now in Boston, to help low income teens make it to college.
Secondly, with Moonbox’s associate artistic director, Allison Olivia Choat, at the helm, you know odds are that the production will be first rate. Their BAREFOOT IN THE PARK (playing through Dec. 12th) is flat out hilarious with a game cast making the physical comedy the highlight of the show. Not that Neil Simon’s play isn’t funny on its own merits—it turns out to be much cleverer than I remembered it to be. (It’s been a hundred years since I last saw it.)
Every character has their moment, their rhythm, their triumph in Simon’s smarty pants, “the honeymoon is over” comedy. Marisa Gold is adorable as the maddeningly impetuous bride. Sheriden Thomas is wonderfully acerbic as her doting, sardonic mom and Tom Shoemaker has a welcome transformation when he finally loosens up.
James Bocock (delivery man) and Andrew Winson (telephone installer) are thoroughly charming as the sympathetic workmen but it’s Phil Thompson who brings the comedy home (and the house down) as the epicurean “sheik of Budapest” who doesn’t take no for an answer.
Since he hasn’t paid his rent, he can only access his roof top digs from the ledge adjacent to the newlywed’s bedroom window. John Paul Devlin’s marvelous set (complete with working stovetop) allows us to look through the tall, side by side kitchen windows to see Thompson crossing the narrow ledge (and waving) like a Flying Wallenda. His performance is so delicious that you can’t wait for him to reappear.
I enjoyed every variation on the “exhausting five floor walkup” theme. Choat and company milk it like pros: Some fall flat on their face, some can hardly speak for lack of oxygen, another’s voice gets higher from the elevation. It’s terrific shtick. Just what this weary, frightened world needs right now: laughter to make you forget, for a short while anyway, that life is perilous.