‘Barefoot in the Park’ is iconic crowd-pleaser

Neil Simon classic is among many works by playwright being staged around nation

Sonya Ellingboe
sellingboe@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 3/11/20

Lights go up on an empty apartment in an old brownstone on East 48th Street in New York City. It’s February 1963. Only the kitchen is furnished. A restless young woman enters and stuffs things into …

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‘Barefoot in the Park’ is iconic crowd-pleaser

Neil Simon classic is among many works by playwright being staged around nation

Posted

Lights go up on an empty apartment in an old brownstone on East 48th Street in New York City. It’s February 1963. Only the kitchen is furnished. A restless young woman enters and stuffs things into the refrigerator as she tidies up a bit. Suitcases are in the room. We meet Corie Bratter (Lynzee Jones), the somewhat ditzy resident newlywed, who has rented this chilly fifth-floor space for herself and new husband, Paul (Tim Howard), an already-a-bit-stuffy lawyer.

She awaits Bloomingdales’ furniture delivery — and the next years of her life…

The audience settles in for “Barefoot in the Park,” a favorite comedy by American playwright Neil Simon (1927-2018). Many theater companies across the nation are honoring the late, always-popular Simon this season, with performances of his works — more than 30 plays, plus as many television scripts.

Stomping and puffing is heard. It’s the telephone repairman (Giovanni Roselli), here to hook them up and assign a phone number. Imagine! Her own number …

A winded Paul appears next — those stairs are an ongoing issue. Each character’s response is different.

The phone guy leaves and a brief lovey-dovey interlude is followed by arguing. He wants to work. She wants to play … More steps on the stairs announce the arrival of Corie’s mother (the always-entertaining Annie Dwyer).

Amusing Neil Simon-crafted conversation continues and eventually the quirky upstairs neighbor Victor Velasco (Tom Mullin) appears to add another voice and color to the scene. They decide to head to Staten Island for dinner, where something with flaming brandy is said to be on the menu … They return full of Greek wine and still talking, talking …

Director Bob Wells, a comic himself, has shaped this popular Simon work into an entertaining evening for audiences at Littleton’s Town Hall Arts Center, and it runs through March 22. Wells’ directors’ notes say it opened in October 1963 and played 1,530 performances, until June 1967 — and it’s been a steady favorite since. “In 1963, Simon became the only living playwright to have a New York City theater named after him, when the Alvin Theatre on Broadway was named The Neil Simon Theatre,” Wells continues.

Wells also added a quote from comedic actor Nathan Lane; “Neil often said … he was writing dramas with comic moments in them. The most important thing with his material was to always play it as you would a serious play and allow Neil to do his work.”

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