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‘Barefoot in the Park’ cast guarantees laughs

There’s a character in “Barefoot in the Park” you’re bound to relate to, say those involved in the production.

Director Regina Belt-Daniels likes to think of the play’s author, Neil Simon, as “our American Shakespeare.” And “Barefoot in the Park,” one of his earliest creations, is said to be largely biographical and a love letter to Simon’s first wife.

A production of Williams Street Repertory, the in-house theater company for the Raue Center for the Arts, the show opens at 8 p.m. May 2 at the Raue, 26 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake. With ticket prices starting at $25, it runs through May 11.

Similar to the 1976 film starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, the play tells the story of newlyweds Paul, a conservative young lawyer, and Corie, a free spirit always looking for the latest kick. The two move into a new apartment – too expensive, with bad plumbing and in need of a paint job – and the adventure begins.

“It will make you laugh,” Belt-Daniels said. “It’s a well-written piece of comedy. The cast is absolutely brilliant. Neil Simon uses characters that are likeable. I think everybody in the audience will see someone they know up on that stage.”

If the on-stage camaraderie is anything like the fun being had making “Barefoot in the Park,” audiences are definitely in for a fun night.

“It is one of the most incredibly hilarious casts I’ve ever worked with,” said Amanda Flahive, who plays “Corie” and is performing her 11th show with Williams Street Repertory.

“We spend a lot of time laughing in rehearsal, maybe more than we should,” she said. “We crack each other up on stage. It’s one of those plays. If you really embrace the comedy of it, it’s just infectious.”

Playing “Paul,” David Lowenthal appears in his second Williams Street Repertory production, having previously starred in “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play” at the Raue.

He likes that the script is raw and full of energy, moreso than some of Simon’s later work in which the characters seem to have more finesse.

“I get to run the gamut of every emotion on the planet, every mental and physical state of being,” said Lowenthal, who also does some commercial, film and voice-over acting.

The set is designed to duplicate a New York City apartment, Belt-Daniels said, containing a working refrigerator and stove.

The show marks the end of the season for Williams Street, which recently announced its 2014/15 season, including six shows and three Chicago premieres. Among the upcoming shows planned are “Suds: The Rockin’ ’60s Musical Soap Opera” in July and “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” and “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” both in September.

The company will premiere “Hands on a Hardbody” in November.

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