Barefoot In The Park
By Neil Simon
Directed by Tim DeBaun
Starring Sara Jane Fridlich and Michael Kutner
Theater Downtown, Orlando FL
In the idealized 60s, respectable people didn’t live with bohemians and they used elevators, not ropes, to get to their 6th floor apartments. Not so for newlywed Corie Bratter (Fridlich), she’s impulsive and adventurous and willing to snacking on Eel Yummies or running off to Staten Island to sample Albania sheep soup. Her lovey dovey is uptight junior attorney Paul (Kutner) who’s just gotten his first crack at a court case. She thinks Paul ought to be more playful, he feels Corie doesn’t appreciate he can’t show up in court in a dashiki and a hangover. No heat and no actual space adds to the fun, all for the outrageous rent of $125 a month. Corie’s mom (Marion Marsh) hikes up the stairs and makes some snide comments, but it seems Paul is more in love with her than Corie. The alternate path to their lives arrives in the form of jovial neighbor Victor Velasco (David Gerrard), a mountain climber and dead beat artist who rappels down from the attic to visit when ever Paul can provide the liquor. After about a week of this carnage, Corie demands a divorce, Paul catches a cold, and they live happily ever after when mom gives Corie some stock advice about “losing a bit of yourself” to remain happily married.
Despite excellent performances by Kutner and Fridlich, Gerrard’s Velasco stole the show. He’s the lovable rascal that you’d want to guide you through the remote borough of New York and the shady corners of your mind. Fridlich flies effortlessly through the story, and when her first “I want a divorce” passes her lips, you’re still so convinced she’s in love that you’re likely to miss the line and its meaning. Kutner is the sympathetic one, you feel as hurt as he when this relation tatters. Marsh’s unnamed mother was the enigma – she’s never the interferers like a good mother-in law should, but rolls with the flow even if she never builds the stamina to tackle the stairs. When Corie’s attempts to set Mom up with Velasco, the result surprises everyone except Velasco. He’s the only one who really believes his own stories, and is boho enough to ignore Mom’s middle class background. Teetering between the worlds of respectability and sensuality, one might wonder “Can you have both?” Of course not, you have to pick your priorities, and there’s no splitting the difference.
Director DeBaun has taken this pleasantly dated script and played it for all its humor, even making the endless jokes about 6 flights of stairs work well past their expiration date. Set designer Tommy Mangieri build a spacious looking set with some of the truly most disgusting wall color I’ve ever seen. He must have a special Pantone book for the mixture of grime and failed cleaning that defined the Bratter’s apartment. Simon relies on his world of stock situations and characters, including the obligatory “locking oneself in the bathroom” scene, but these are real people, or real enough to send a pleasantly acceptable message about true love overcoming low stress hardship. One wonders if Corie could have a touch of bipolar in here blood, but even if she chooses the road of middle class respectability, she’ll still drag Paul down to The Village for an open mike night or twelve.
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