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All fun and adventure

With a near-perfect casting and charming sets, Evam's ``Barefoot In the Park" was an enjoyable affair, writes ELIZABETH ROY.

Evam's ``Barefoot"... exploring possibilities. — Pic. by N. Balaji

EVAM HAS had ``Barefoot in the Park" on the cards for a while now. It finally happened last weekend, the first four of the ten shows scheduled over three weekends in February. The Evam infrastructure worked, one more time. Their publicity and marketing strategy paid off, the production was impeccable, their sponsors enjoyed ample exposure and their audience enjoyed the show.

``Barefoot in the Park" is a 1963 script from Neil Simon, made unforgettable by Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. Paul and Corie are newly weds who have little in common. Paul is a straight-laced professional who seldom lets his guard down. Corie is adventurous and a free spirit who doesn't look for points of reference. They move into an inconvenient little apartment on the fourth floor, with weirdoes for neighbours and no lifts to boot. They encounter Velasco who lives in the attic and enters his dwelling either up a ladder or via the ledge of the newly weds' bedroom window.

When Mrs. Banks, Corie's mother, visits, the four go out for a night on the town. Paul gets drunk, Corie dances and Mrs. Banks ends up in Velasco's apartment. The couple decides to end their marriage. Then, of course, they get back together. They understand why opposites attract, that their differences add up to the beauty and foundation of their relationship.

One of the major strengths of Evam's ``Barefoot in the Park" was its near-perfect casting. Karthik Kumar and Andrea Jeremiah made a great team. Karthik as Paul gave a good performance as usual, full of subtleties and nuances. Andrea with her comfortable stage presence and reservoir of energy played a very charming Corie. Neelakantan as Velasco did a great job of creating the sense of comedy. Evam did bring out the best in him. He unnerved Paul, intrigued Corie and endeared himself to the audience.

There was a very brief appearance done extremely well from Manoj. And then there were three other walk-on roles from Sunil in his inimitable fashion that made one realise that the small parts, well played, contribute to the success of a play. Sunil made his priest, telephone repairman and restaurateur into nothing less than starry roles.

Apart from the consistently good acting, the evening stood out for its surprise in store for the audience. Karthik Srinivasan stepped on stage to play a rather tall and good-looking Mrs. Banks. There was no attempt to create comedy out of a drag situation as a marginalised reality. The group simply explored the possibilities and freedom within the realm of theatre and Karthik's range. Evam tried at least four women for the role. For one reason or the other none of them could do it and every time, Karthik stepped in so the rehearsals could go on. It then dawned on Evam that Karthik was the perfect Mrs. Banks. He gave a great performance and a very convincing one and quite usurped the evening.

The sets designed and executed by Michael Muthu were very good. It was understated and took care not to upstage the performance. The Manhattan skyline through the windows was particularly charming. The music specially scored for the play by Anil Srinivasan was as usual very good. Another touch, which broke the old pattern, was moving the audience in the traditional performing arts style to the space outside the auditorium, where the Lithuanian restaurant was set up. There was much singing and dancing but the audience was not coerced into joining.

Evam also put effort into the sets changes. While the stage was being rearranged a spot picked up two dancers in well-choreographed, well-executed dance, moving to Anil Srinivasan's music.

The same, however, could not be said of the dancing during the wedding scene played on the apron. Karthik, Andrea and Sunil (as the priest) made a perfect team.

There was romance, dreams, anxiety, much emotion and the occasional laugh until the pink, dreadfully clad, bridesmaids and their male counterparts broke into clumsy dancing. That was, really speaking, the only dark blotch on an otherwise extremely enjoyable three hour-long entertainment.

Its great news that Evam for their next venture is breaking out of pure entertainment into highly creative theatre, doing Evam Indrajit, set in an Indian milieu and discussing universal issues that concern youth.

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