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"Barefoot In The Park"

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Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park" opened on Broadway back in 1963, and it ended up running for four years. Now, for the first time, this classic comedy is being revived on Broadway. NY1’s Roma Torre filed this review.

Way back when before sitcoms satisfied a strange urge to watch cute but innocuous shows on TV, the theatre was supplying its own brand of cute but innocuous fare.

“Barefoot in the Park” as particularly successful, running for some four years. It was Neil Simon's second play, and it showed, to an extent. Not nearly as funny as Simon's “Odd Couple” or as deep as his later “Brighton Beach” plays, “Barefoot in the Park” was a minor work that worked in 1963.

But despite a solid production, shows like “Barefoot in the Park” have outlived their usefulness on Broadway. And at a top ticket price of $96, cute but innocuous doesn't cut it.

Corie and Paul are an odd couple of a far more conventional sort. They're newlyweds who just moved into a fifth-floor walkup in the Village. She's adventurous and daring, while he's conservative and stiff. Still glowing from their honeymoon, it doesn't take long before they have their first spat.

The apartment, expensive back then at $125 a month, is the catalyst. Small and cold, it features a hole in the ceiling and a heart attack-inducing climb. To Corie it's charming. Paul finds it a pain.

The apartment jokes run their course, with a subplot involving Corrie's proper New Jersey mom and the eccentric neighbor upstairs. In the end, the message is that couples need to compromise, and the stiff husband needs to learn to take his shoes off and go barefoot in the park.

The play might have worn better if Corie and Paul were more equally matched. She's portrayed as rather unsympathetically naive and flaky. He's the more sensible, one and when he finally lets her have it in a heated confrontation, the audience applauds.

In the early 60's, silly, dependent women like Corie were appealing. Today, it just doesn't make sense, and the play suffers for it.

The good news is that Scott Elliot's production couldn't be better. Amanda Peet, making her Broadway debut, is quite a natural on the big stage. She'd almost be adorable if not for her character's annoyingly infantile personality.

Jill Clayburgh is fabulous as ever, and looks fabulous in Isaac Mizrahi's period-perfect costumes. Tony Roberts, another solid pro, gives a rich performance as the penniless Mr. Velasco.

Best of all is Patrick Wilson. A distinguished musical performer, he turns out to be a born comedic actor with all the right instincts. His timing and physical takes are vintage Simon.

“Barefoot in the Park” is a staple of regional theatre, where it should remain. Years ago it might have been considered a cheap laugh, but obviously that's not the case anymore.

This type of entertainment was replaced long ago by the TV, and there you can get it for free.

- Roma Torre
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