Marriage is difficult, and Barefoot in the Park doesn’t try to make it seem like anything but.
Penned by Neil Simon of Biloxi Blues fame, the three-act play follows a newlywed couple that’s just spent six wonderful, loving and lusty days on their honeymoon. The self-identified spontaneous one of the couple, Corie Bratter (Brianna Letourneau), has found an apartment for the two to share in New York City. Well, as her uptight husband, lawyer Paul Bratter (Brandon McCoy), quickly discovers, “apartment” is a loose term.
As reflected by a wonderfully sparse set, the “apartment” is a room. On the sixth floor of a brownstone. With a broken skylight. In winter. And a broken radiator. And broken appliances. And a half-bedroom with enough space for an oversized single. And a kooky upstairs neighbor by the name of Victor Velasco (R. Scott Williams) who reaches his apartment through a window in their bedroom. Domestic bliss, right?
Paul tries to make the best of it, as does Corie’s mother Ethel Banks (Lucinda Merry-Brown), complimenting the place. But the insufferable Corie yells at them and throws one of many temper tantrums while telling them that they’re lying and that they hate it. Both are good sports–for a while.
Eventually Corie attempts to, without permission, set her mother up on a blind date with Victor Velasco, a thoroughly entertaining fiasco that ends with an extremely stumbling-drunk quartet and rising emotions. As Corie pushes for Velasco to drive her mother home (something the mother seems not to want), Paul grows increasingly annoyed with his wife’s childish behavior. Cue the fight that blows the whole marriage out of the water–for a while.
The play is simple and crisp, offering treats of comic dialogue, such as Corie and her mother’s exchange when discussing the size of the “kitchen.”– “It’s big enough to make spaghetti and things,” says an often breathless Corie. “What’s things?” her mom wants to know. “It’s a dish I make.”
Or take Paul’s description of the bedroom size: “We have to turn in unison.” And his description of a recent appliance failure. “We had a fire in our stove.” “What happened?” “Nothing, we just turned it on.”
Barefoot in the Park
Closes March 3, 2013
Compass Rose Studio Theater
1011 Bay Ridge Ave
2 hours with intermission
Thursdays thru Sundays
At about a two-hour running time, the play ends on a happier note, though you’ve gone through hell and back to get there. It’s an endorsement of marriage in 1963, but it probably won’t make anyone too eager to rush out and buy a ring.
Quick notes: The play is set in 1963, yet the liquor bottles on the shelves have current labels. In the same vein, I’m not sure many women were wearing skin-tight jeans in 1963. Small complaints, perhaps, but it manages to rudely jerk the audience out of the setting.
Also, it should be noted that Compass Rose Theatre’s sign is not a very visible one. It’s located in a strip mall, and it can be a tad difficult to find the first time. The front doors literally face the performing space, so it’s important to get there on time to avoid flooding the stage with sunlight.
Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon . Directed by James Phillips . Set Design by Joann Gidos . Lighting Design by Eric Bowers . Costume Design by Julie Bays . Stage Manager is Andrew Stoffel . Produced by Compass Rose Theater . Reviewed by Travis M. Andrews.