“Barefoot in the Park” is witty and well-done
Special to Prospector
Once the honeymoon is over, do newlyweds look at each other and ask, “Who really IS that person who I married?” They do in the play “Barefoot in the Park,” a romantic comedy engagingly and entertainingly presented by Legacy Productions.
“Barefoot” was written by Neil Simon and premiered on Broadway in 1963. You may have seen the movie adaptation with Robert Redford and Jane Fonda in 1967. The entire play is set in a deficient fifth floor walk-up in New York in the early 1960s (the difficult climb is a continuing verbal and visual joke throughout the show). The tiny apartment is the backdrop for marital fireworks between the unlikely newlyweds, Paul, a young, buttoned-down lawyer, and Corie, his free-spirited wife. The social context is traditional American marriage of the early ‘60s, where you marry and only then live together. Problems develop for Paul and Corie because these two haven’t really experienced each other—they still have a lot to learn about each other and marital negotiation. The dissimilarity between the two characters is illuminated when Corie and Paul argue and she tells Paul that he is a ‘watcher’ and she is a ‘doer’; she says, “There are watchers and there are doers, and the watchers sit around and watch the doers do.” The humor in the differences between them is captured when Paul retorts that “it was harder for me to watch what you did, than it was for you to do what I was watching.” Additional comedy is added through clever and incisive dialog, unpredictable situations, and the actors’ well-executed performances. Mix in a slightly domineering and old-fashioned mother and an aging and unconventional lothario neighbor, and life for all four becomes wild and comic.
As presented by Legacy, the play is charming and funny, with just the right amount of both comedy and romance. John Bivens strikes the right practical attitude for Paul, the young lawyer who has difficulty with spontaneity—when he finally lets go, Bivens is very funny. Sparkling as Corie, Nadia White imbues her character with vitality and an exuberance for life—her facial nuances are wonderful. As Corie’s mother Ethel, Sara Noah often steals her scenes. Ward Thompson is charming and suave as Victor, the Casanova-like neighbor. Adam Morton imbues the small part of the telephone repairman with wit and humanity. And the crew members who rearrange the set during intermission are also deliberately hilarious.
Sue LeGate does a wonderful job directing the play; she fully engages her actors to bring out both broad and subtle nuances of humor and action. Verne Freer and Darryl Stines’ set design is very functional and establishes the appropriate atmosphere.
Before attending “Barefoot,” I was wary that the play might be dated, but after seeing the current production—and keeping in mind the conventions of the ‘60s—I highly recommend the play as a very enjoyable evening of lively comedy and fine acting. “Barefoot in the Park” continues at the Nevada Theatre through Sept. 28th.
Hindi Greenberg enjoys the clever and amusing repartee of Neil Simon, especially when done well as it is in this current production.
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