The Springville Playhouse — Utah’s oldest community theater group — is performing Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park,” and while the play may not come across as funny as Simon intended it, the Playhouse does a decent job of presenting a relatively entertaining show.
The story is simple. Corie (Karli C. Holdener) and Paul (Matthieu C. Kohl), newlyweds, find that life isn’t such a bowl of cherries once the honeymoon is over. He’s a bit conservative and stodgy, while she is wild and vivacious. This contrast comes to a head when Corie sets her mother (Kathy Llewellyn) on a blind date with an eccentric neighbor (Lon Keith). Hilarity ensues.
The play takes a while to get going, but once it does, it’s pretty good. Corie and Paul’s fight, in particular, is well done, though it does point out quite clearly the distinction between Holdener and Kohl as actors. Holdener is a talented actress who plays her character with gusto and skill, whereas Kohl often seems unsure of his lines and has a knack for delivering every punchline in such a way as to render it unfunny. Not until his character gets drunk does Kohl really begin to shine — but that’s not until the last scene.
Holdener is the stand-out performer in the cast, though Keith’s performance as Victor Velasco, the vaguely foreign upstairs neighbor, nearly rivals it. Keith, like Holdener, conveys a sense of confidence and professionalism in his performance, bringing a certain energy to his character.
The Playhouse made an unwise choice in trying to modernize Simon’s play. Instead of taking place in the ’60s, when it was written, it is now supposed to be the ’90s, with costumes and sets being altered accordingly. The only dialogue that is changed, however, is with added references to Johnny Cochran and Steven Spielberg. These stand out like sore thumbs, though, when mixed in with references to old Broadway shows like “Strange Interlude” and “Knickerbocker Holiday,” and such obviously-’60s slang as “stuffed shirt” and “rat fink.” Someone decided to only go half-way with the modernization, and it doesn’t work.
At two hours, “Barefoot in the Park” is a little shorter than most plays. The cast makes good use of the excellent stage area, and the show generally moves along briskly, with little down time. Supporting community theater should be a priority, and this show makes doing so a nice way to spend an evening.
We ate at a great restaurant called the Cracker Barrel right before we saw this show, and that really helped. It's a down-home cooking kind of restaurant, and they bring you fresh, hot biscuits to munch on while you're waiting for your real food, and they're SOOOOO good.