Barefoot in the Park - A Delightful Stroll
By Bob and Karen Isaacs
You will absolutely love the early Neil Simon play, Barefoot in the Park, lighting up the stage of the Ivoryton Playhouse.
The story shows us a newly married couple moving into their first apartment on the top floor of a New York City brownstone after a short honeymoon in the Plaza Hotel. First to arrive in the empty apartment -- really a one room flat including a kitchen -- is Corie (the cute as a button Kathleen Mulready) awaiting the delivery of furniture, the installation of the couple’s telephone and eventually her husband, a New York lawyer.
First to arrive is the telephone man (Tom Libonate) and through him we learn that the apartment is on the fifth floor of this walk-up. Libonate pants his exhausted and disbelieving way into the room and proceeds to install the phone. This is 1961 and so our current usage of cell phones was an unknown possibility. Through their brief discussion we learn the background of the young couple and also learn about the closet/dressing room that Corie has turned into a bedroom. Some humor is developed through this idea.
Before the telephone repairman leaves we also have the arrival of a deliveryman (the breathless, speechless but expressive Dan Coyle), from Lord and Taylor. The antics of the two men provide humor and substance to what is to follow, the arrival of Corie's husband and her mother.
As Libonate departs Corie's husband Paul (Sean Patrick Hopkins) in total disbelief but still smitten with newlywed love makes the best of it and reluctantly agrees with Corie's pleasure in their apartment. They appear to be polar opposites – Paul the buttoned-down, practical lawyer and Corie the spur of the moment, innocent attracted tothe unconventional. But as soon as Paul is settling down -- he has to prepare for his first important case in the morning -- the doorbell rings and to the chagrin of both it is Corie's mother (a splendid interpretation by Katrina Ferguson) who struggles her way up and, like Paul, breathlessly agrees with Corie's enthusiasm.
The problem is that it's mid-February and the apartment is cold. At this point we are introduced to Victor Velasco (a flamboyant Buzz Roddy) who lives in the attic above them but because he has not paid his rent in several months the only way in to his apartment is through the Corie's and Paul's bedroom. Velasco points out that everything works backwards so, for example, in order to get heat you need to turn the radiator off. There is also a bit of toilet humor here.
You will delight in Victor’s method of getting to his room. But before he leaves he arranges with Corie, Paul and Corie's mother to take them to dinner on Friday. And so the curtain comes down on act one and during the intermission the apartment is completely furnished so that when act two opens everyone is on hand to be led by Victor off to dinner in of all places an Albanian restaurant in Staten Island.
Things get wild and woolly after this including a verbal battle between Corie and Paul.
Before the curtain comes down on the third act -- this is merely a way of accounting for time and is really a third scene in act two -- we are treated to several farcical moments, some typical Neil Simon jokes, a revelation or two about Corie's mother, and a reconciliation between Corie and Paul.
Rachel Reynolds has done a terrific job with the limited Ivoryton stage and the need to not only to place furniture but also to provide a skylight that is the centerpiece of the entire setting.
Director R. Bruce Connelly keeps the action moving and the interactions are just perfect. The physical and facial reactions to the facility are a large part of the humor and fun of this play.
You will certainly enjoy yourself in this reprise of one of Neil Simon's excellent works.
Barefoot in the Park is at the Ivoryton Playhouse through June 28. For tickets and information contact the Playhouse at 860-767-7318 or online at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.
This review appears in Shore Publishing Community Newspapers June 22, 2011 and online at Zip06.com.