BWW Review: GCT Offers Appealing BAREFOOT IN THE PARK
Barefoot in the Park/by Neil Simon/directed by George Strattan/Glendale Center Theatre (GCT)/through February 10
For those who grew up in the 60s, it is easy to see why Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park (1963) was such a tremendous hit. Corie Banks Bratter (Stephanie Skewes) and Paul Bratter (Joshua Evans) are the adorable young newlyweds next-door, that everyone can relate to. Typical as well, they have day vs.night personalities.She is as sparkling, fun-loving and open-minded as he is sedate, serious and closed-in.They are different, but in the long run it does not get in the way.Today, sadly, they might actually divorce and never reconcile. After all, in this advanced technological age, a dissatisfied young couple may take their hopes and dreams and go shopping online for new, readily accessible partners. Round and round it goes. So, it is nice to look back and see two lovers really try to change or at least compromise in order to work things out. Simon's crisp dialogue and funny offbeat situations are certainly as timely as ever, and in GCT's sturdy production, the look and feel of the 60s are kept vibrantly alive thanks to a great cast and George Strattan's meticulous direction.
Skewes's Corie is energetic, beautiful and lovable to a fault. Today Corie would be called high maintenance, but it's not really a negative appraisal. Skewes makes her antics genuine so we root for Corie to squeeze as much from life as she can. She is assuredly never selfish...women today, take note! Evans makes a delightful Paul, especially with the physical comedy. Though intense, he never actually opposes Corie in their duels, remaining detached and human enough to accept marriage's newfound pitfalls. Even when he leaves briefly, we sense underneath that Paul is just going through the motions and will be back. Caron Strong as Mrs. Banks wins our hearts. She makes Ethel's caring support of her daughter and willingness to change her own lifestyle totally real and admirable. She is very funny with the exasperation and confusion of her unexpected drunkenness. This is a straight-laced lady who needs time to adapt. Ted Wells as Victor Velasco is a charmingly wise eccentric and makes the built-in silliness thoroughly enjoyable, without stretching the limits. His accent is perfect and he is having a lot of fun onstage. In smaller roles Mark Gates and Rick Steele add humor, especially Gates as the telephone repair man. His flustered delivery is sheer delight.
Set design for the round by Nathan Milisavljevich and George Strattan, costumes by Angela Manke and quick pacing by director Strattan could not be better. Of course, some of Simon's lines are corny and a bit dated, by today's standards, but they still sound disarmingly funny. "Six days does not a week make", for example - who talks that way? - is a nonsensical reason for wanting a divorce, but in the scene it does work uproariously. Not one other living playwright today has managed to master the wit and brilliance of a comic retort quite like Neil Simon.
This is a wonderful stroll down memory lane for those that remember the original film of Barefoot in the Park (1967). Real life marrieds Skewes and Evans have wondrous chemistry together and make you query....now what stars played those roles? Of course, Fonda and Redford are unforgettable, but in their own special way, so are these two young actors. For those that have never experienced the play or any Simon, you are in for a treat.