“Barefoot in the Park” delightful romance at the Ivoryton Playhouse
by Kory Loucks
IVORYTON-Ain’t love grand? In Neil Simon’s somewhat corny, sweet diversion, “Barefoot in the Park” at the Ivoryton Playhouse is a harmless and entertaining little ditty of a romantic comedy.
Originally opening on Broadway in 1963, and then turned into a movie starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford, this play is also an amusing time capsule of sorts.
Here a six floor walkup one-bedroom apartment in New York City costs an outrageous $150 a month, while land-lines still have rotary dials and quaint old-fashioned telephone numbers like “Eldorado-58191.” Eldorado representing the “E” and “D” on the telephone dial pad.
It was a time of social upheaval, where women were just starting to come into their own in the workforce, and newlyweds Corie and Paul are part of the transition.
The plot finds the newlyweds setting up shop in a Greenwich Village walkup with a shower and no tub in the bathroom, a stove that doesn’t work, a walk-in closet for a bedroom, and a broken skylight. Corie arranges a blind date for her mom and the Russian Lothario living next door, Victor Velasco. That’s pretty much it for the plot.
Curiously, although they repeated mention that they live on 48th Street, that’s 50 blocks north of Greenwich Village.
Kathleen Mulready plays the effervescent child-woman Corie Bratter, 6 days married and in that lovely honeymoon period where everything is fabulous and the future looks limitless. Mulready, last seen in “The Irish and How They Got That Way,” is full of vim and vigor and invests her role with all the quirky charm necessary.
It doesn’t appear that she has a job, nor any intention of getting one, which brings me back to the time capsule. This was when women were evolving from the old roles of staying at home once they were married and working outside the home.
Sean Patrick Hopkins plays her practical and much put-upon husband and new lawyer, Paul. Hopkins does a fine job playing the straight man to his new wife’s zany antics and sometimes childish, trouble-making behavior.
Katrina Ferguson is lovely and charming as Corie’s mother, Mrs. Banks. She plays the role with a much nicer, sweeter attitude than I’ve seen before, while still being amusing, especially later on when she’s had a couple drinks and Victor insists on taking her home, in her car, to New Jersey.
Buzz Roddy plays Victor Velasco with a fine accent, but I would have like to see him play a more expansive, dramatic, and domineering and theatrical Victor. In other words, overacting fits this role.
Simon is a master of the one-liners and “Barefoot in the Park” is chock full of them. Like when her mother says to Corie, “I remember when you were a little girl you said you wanted to live on the moon. I thought you were joking.”
When the 58-year-old Velasco makes a pass at Corie, he says he wishes he were older because “dirty old men seem to get away with a lot more. I’m still at that awkward stage.”
There’s a funny running bit about people mounting the stairs and bursting into the room in various stages of oxygen depletion. Another quirky recurring bit comes from drinking Ouzo, an anise-flavored aperitif at a restaurant in Staten Island, which doesn’t cause a hangover, but Velasco says the alcohol makes it impossible to make a fist for days.
I also love comedy with clothing. Here Mrs. Banks’ hat twirls skyward after a night on the town. I would have loved to see her dressed in the kimono that they say Velasco wears. Costumes by Vivianna Lamb.
The set by designer Rachel Reynolds is perfect for a walkup, with a terrific, large skylight, that looks like a shabby chic version of the apartment in the television show “Friends.”
Directed with a light comic touch by R. Bruce Connelly, “Barefoot in the Park” is a fun little diversion from everyday life.
Location: Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT
Production: Written by Neil Simon. Directed by R. Bruce Connelly. Scenic design by Rachel Reynolds. Stage manager T. Rick Jones. Lighting design by Aaron Breskey. Hair design by Joel Silvestro. Sound design by Jo Nazro. Costume design by Vivianna Lamb.
Running time: 2 ½ hours including a 15-minute intermission.
Show Times: Wednesday and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. through June 26.
Tickets: $40 for adults, $35 for seniors, $20 for students, and $15 for children 12 and under. Call the box office at 860-767-7318, or visit their website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org
Kathleen Mulready … Corie Bratter
Sean Patrick Hopkins … Paul Bratter
Katrina Ferguson … Corie’s mother, Mrs. Banks
Buzz Roddy … Victor Velasco
Tom Libonate … Telephone repairman
Dan Coyle … Delivery man