It was with trepidation that I made the trek to Hanover Tavern to review what I thought would be an evening of all-too-sappy romantic comedy in Leonard Gershe's 1969 Broadway hit, “Butterflies are Free.” Instead I was pleasantly surprised by a clever script, stellar performances from the cast and Billy-Christopher Maupin's credible direction.
Young, handsome and blind, Don Baker (Matthew Bloch) is in the middle of a two-month trial run as an independent man living in his own apartment. Sheltered by his overbearing mother (Tamara Johnson) until recently, Don is captivated by his free-spirited, worldly next-door neighbor, Jill Tanner (Jennifer Martin), who at 19 is already divorced from her husband of six days. Within 30 minutes of meeting each other, Don and Jill climb the loft-bed ladder of carnal love only to be discovered by Don's mother, who's dropped by despite an earlier agreement to stay away.
Audience laughter is constant with Gershe's script keeping the action and the one-liners neatly coming, but it's Maupin's direction that skillfully brings the complex character relationships to life. Bloch and Martin have a sparkling chemistry that's fun to watch. Martin brings charm and believability to the ditzy yet sweet Jill. Her sincerity is paramount as she delivers such lines as, “It seemed like weeks!” when asked about the duration of her marriage. Mrs. Baker's strong, if misdirected, maternal devotion is deftly captured by Johnson, whose Eartha Kitt-like voice lends appropriate strength to the role.
“Butterflies are Free” is a PG-13 show that delights, regardless of your fondness for cute, romantic comedy. S
“Butterflies are Free” runs on select dates at Barksdale Hanover Tavern through May 16, tickets are $10-$38. For information call 282-2620 or visit barksdalerichmond.org.