“Flights of Angels,” Shakespeare wrote, but when Neil Simon got a chance to massage them they became funnier. “Barefoot in the Park,” Simon’s 1963 hit play, takes us to the fifth-floor walk-up of a pair of newlyweds. Corie (Rebecca Tucker) loves it. Paul (a precise Craig Bryant Belwood), who is starting a step up in his law career at the same time they are launching their marriage, is less enthusiastic.
The stage shows a beautiful skylight over an empty room with several doors. We get the fuller dimensions of the five flights when the telephone man (John Champion) arrives through one of them, gasping for breath. Corie keeps hoping that the furniture she has ordered will arrive before Paul gets to see the apartment she’s picked out for them, so every time the buzzer buzzes, she calls down the stairs “we’re up here,” but first a different delivery man brings parcels of gifts from her mother. He’s also wheezing and collapses for a relapse after the climb.
Then Paul arrives. He hasn’t seen the place before. They got only to the third floor the day they checked out the building. Corie (whose romantic bent treasures walking barefoot in the nearby park) has imagined that when he’s at home with her the place becomes only a love-nest; Paul instead imagines a place to prepare documents he needs for a day in court tomorrow that he’s excited about. Caveat: there is no furniture available for either love or work.
When the buzzer sounds again it is not furniture arriving but instead Corie’s mother, Mrs. Banks (beautifully played by Susan Cella), who lives in New Jersey, but was visiting in Westchester County and thought a short visit to Corie’s new apartment would ‘naturally’ be right on her way home. Just like the telephone man and the delivery man and Paul, Mrs. Banks is out of breath and needing oxygen as she stumbles through the door. Pointing out a few obvious challenges, she insists that she ‘loves’ the apartment.
Paul goes off to work in the bedroom (just large enough to hold one twin bed). That’s the cue for another visitor, Victor Velasco (Rex Smith), a flamboyant larger-than-life designer who lives in the flat above Corie and Paul, asking to sneak out their window and into his because right now he’s locked out by the landlord for being behind on his rent.
The mix of characters is complete. The furniture arrives. Victor helps to place it. Corie invites him to dinner on Friday night, along with her mother. The event is not a success – the stove malfunctioned. They went out to a restaurant. Mrs. Banks got sick. Sort of a disaster.
Corie and Paul have a newlyweds’ spat, and it sounds like it’s all over between them. Both hurt and stubborn. Paul gets drunk and goes to walk barefoot in the park. Maybe the marriage is on again.
And Mrs. Banks and Victor Velasco seem to be getting along well too.
The Sharon Playhouse production is well cast and so nicely directed (Clayton Phillips) that I think you’ll enjoy it. It moves briskly and only pauses when its characters run out of breath from climbing the stairs. The set, lighting, costumes, and sound work well, and the featured skylight is a gem.
Tickets and information at www.sharonplayhouse.org or call 860-364-7469 x201.
Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre