Cambridge's leading amateur theatre production company

Established 1981

Barefoot in the Park
by  Neil Simon   directed by Sally Marsh

The ADC Theatre, Cambridge, April 2014

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Two Reviews of Barefoot in the Park
by  Nick Warburton & Caroline Dormor (Varsity)

Neil Simon has been called the American Ayckbourn and you can see why. He, like Ayckbourn, is interested in the big things that draw people together and the irritating little things that drive them apart. Simon's people are New Yorkers, fast-talking, funny and often neurotic.

The laughter they generate is, more often than not, the laughter of recognition. We see aspects of ourselves up there on stage. And New York, its pace and bustle, and especially the rhythms of its speech, looms over everything. All this could be seen in Barefoot in the Park, presented by Bawds at the ADC in April. The people who breezed into the tiny apartment were full of New York life and colour, and we even got an important glimpse of the city itself through the large ceiling window that dominated the set.

And Roger Hall gave us a good set, a convincing apartment with a real sense of rooms off and other apartments above and below. Each of the play's six characters is paired with an almost-opposite. Corrie (played with bounce and flair by Nora Silk) tries to get
her buttoned-up husband Paul (brilliantly realised by Scott Brindle) to be more relaxed, to run barefoot through the park. Sandra Birnie as Corrie's anxious mother nailed some of the funniest lines in the play. She was set against the dangerously
free-spirited Victor Velasco (a delightfully flamboyant Peter Simmons). Even the 'outsiders', the telephone man and the delivery man, were opposites, the one trying to set up communication, the other too breathless from stair-climbing even to talk. Barry Brown and Colin Lawrence were deft and skilful in these roles.

Indeed, the entire cast presented true and funny characters in perfectly believable situations.The fact that they made it all seem so easy is a sure sign of a great deal of hard work. Sally Marsh's direction drove the whole thing along at a tremendous pace and provided plenty of light and shade. Barefoot in the Park is a good play which both makes us laugh and think. Bawds brought it to life wonderfully.

* * * * *

The Barefoot in the Park poster greeting audience-members in the ADC gives no more away about the play than its rather enigmatic title. But Neil Simon's play, a light-hearted and amusing comedy about newly-weds struggling to settle into their NYC apartment (which is definitely not worth the $125 rent they are paying) is a pleasant surprise.

Barefoot in the Park, which opened on Broadway in 1963, was later made into a successful film. For those familiar with it this is a great chance to see the comedy in a different setting, or to spend a nostalgic evening in 1960s New York. For me, completely new to the production (and having sadly missed the Beatles by a few decades), Barefoot in the Park provided an evening of relaxed entertainment.

The relationship between Corie Bratter, impulsive, reckless wife-of-six-days, and her mother, Mrs. Ethel Banks, who has not slept without a board for years, provided most amusement, in the recognisable format of mother-daughter disputes. The extremes of character were well-portrayed for the most part, though at times Corie's lurched a little too far towards melodrama. However, in the spirit of the production, this had a certain charm in itself.

Paul Bratter, Corie's neat, 'stuffed-shirt' husband, pulled off a particularly impressive Yankee accent, even managing to affect it with a cold following an unfortunate night sleeping below a hole in a skylight in February.The couple's eccentric neighbour, Victor Velasco, is of a similar spirit to Corrie. Between his inappropriate jokes, bizarre habits
and odd living arrangements, he provides a great deal of the comedy. He embodies the spirit of the play with its philosophy that sometimes one must forget it is February, that the grass might be damp, and ones feet will surely get cold, and simply walk barefoot in the park.

And so I encourage anyone feeling submerged in revision, or down after hours spent staring out of the same window to give this play a go if they fancy trying something unexpected. Do not go looking for an epiphanic ending, a host of witty aphorisms, a tough, gritty issue, or any form of moral awakening. But if you fancy taking a detour
and abandoning the books for an hour or two for some unexpected amusement, go see Barefoot in the Park.