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Shakespeare out, Simon in at Water Works

By |2007-07-19T09:00:00-04:00July 19th, 2007|Entertainment|

Shakespeare has left the building.
Or to be more precise, he’s been evicted from Royal Oak’s Starr Jaycee Park to make way for that OTHER world famous author, Neil Simon, whose early comedy “Barefoot in the Park” will be this summer’s annual outdoor production presented by Water Works Theatre Company. “I like to say we’re ‘shaking out the Shakespeare,'” joked Ed Nahhat, the professional theater’s founder, president and executive producer. “We love Shakespeare, but he needs a rest sometimes.”
The decision to replace “Shakespeare in the Park” with “Barefoot in the Park in the Park” after six successful seasons came after surveys and discussions revealed an interesting fact, Nahhat explained. “People come to our shows because of the experience. They don’t come because it’s Shakespeare. So since they’re not necessarily devoted to The Bard, it occurred to me that we can do more than Shakespeare here – and we might even bring in new people. So that’s when I started seriously thinking about doing a contemporary, light-hearted comedy.”
Plus, Nahhat loves the names’s alliteration. “It clicks with people,” he says.
So, too, does the play’s universal theme. “There are laughs every minute, but at its core, it’s a falling-in-love story,” Nahhat said. “It’s a play about newlyweds who have a genuine crisis in their marriage, and they have to decide whether this is what they signed up for. It has unexpected depth in the comedy.”
Although presenting a play set in Manhattan during the 1960s can be challenging enough, Nahhat and director Beth Torrey have other unique difficulties to overcome with their production: The story takes place indoors. And in the winter. “You’ll be amazed at what you’ll see,” Nahhat said of the theater’s environment. “What we do is take a 25-acre park that has nothing in it except trees and grass and build a custom-designed set that’s trucked in, sounds and lights are brought in, bleachers are brought in, fencing is put up – and it becomes a little haven for theater.”
So much so that Nahhat encourages families to come early with a picnic basket, folding chairs and blankets. “It’s so affordable, it’s worth making an evening out of it.”
This year, the performance schedule has been expanded to three weeks rather than two, Nahhat noted, as “insurance against the weather.” (Last year’s turnout was negatively impacted by heavy rains the first week and scorching temperatures the second.) And tickets are good for any performance of the run.
“It’s just great fun,” Nahhat concluded, “It’s summer. It’s romantic. And it’s a great date night for any couple.”

‘Barefoot in the Park’
Water Works Theatre Company at Starr Jaycee Park, 1101 W. Thirteen Mile Rd., Royal Oak. Wed.-Sun., July 26-Aug. 12. Tickets: $8-$18. For information: 248-399-3727 or

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