Barefoot in the Park

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The trials of married life once the honeymoon is over are the focus of “Barefoot in the Park,” now in production at the Little London Dinner Theater.

Corie Bratter (Amie Robin) is the romantic, idealistic young bride who truly believes, as a wise poet once said, that love is all you need. Her lawyer husband Paul (Paul “Wally” Walstad) is more realistic and perhaps a bit stuffy (though I can’t say that trait comes out much in this production).

Paul is less than thrilled with Corie’s choice in apartments, a tiny fifth-floor flat with a hole in the roof and, apparently, no refrigerator.

Their upstairs neighbor, eccentric older man Victor Velasco (Rodney Elwood, also director), makes Paul even more uncomfortable. Corie finds him a charming kindred spirit, though, and conspires to set him up with her own weary old mother (Lesli Manning).

It all falls apart one night when Corie invites them both to dinner and the foursome winds up at an exotic ethnic restaurant miles out of town. Back at the apartment afterward, Paul is furious with Corie for being so irresponsible, and Corie is mad at Paul for, um, not being just like her.

The play is written so that, just as in real life, there is room for compromise. Paul maybe could lighten up a bit, and Corie should probably quit being such a kid.

In this production, though, there’s no give-and-take: Corie is absurdly immature, screaming a hysterical “I hate you!” and demanding a divorce at the slightest provocation. The question is not how two people with such differences ever got married, but rather how Paul will ever put up with a lifetime of this.

This is a Neil Simon comedy, which means everyone’s a wiseguy and most of the jokes are sitcom-standard. That said, it’s a funny production, with Walstad and Robin playing nicely off each other, particularly in their fight scenes. Manning is also pleasantly funny as Corie’s mother. Elwood’s delivery is a little off, though: Most of Victor’s lines are meant to be Victor making jokes, yet he never sounds like he’s joking.

Neil Simon fans should find the show entertaining, and newlyweds will no doubt smile knowingly at the little things that become so important when a couple begins a new life together.

I had some more constructive criticism for this show, but I didn't include it because it's the sort of thing that is perceived as being nit-picking, not constructive criticism. It is that if the lines, as written, don't match what's happening, you should change them. The delivery man is referred to as an "old man," but the actor playing him clearly was not. The phone was referred to as a "princess phone," but it clearly was not one.



One of the funniest things in the show might have been unintentional. After one of their fights, Corie went into the bedroom and Paul stormed out. When she came out of the bedroom, her mom was there, and she said, "Where's Paul?" As she said it, though, she was looking around the room and bathroom, and opened the medicine cabinet -- apparently thinking Paul might be in there. We got a big kick out of that.

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