Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Also see Gil's review of The Pajama Game
Corie and Paul Bratter were married six days ago and have just moved into their New York City apartment. The exuberant and lively Corie and straight-laced lawyer Paul are exact opposites but clearly in love. The apartment that Corie found on her own is small and expensive, a fifth floor walkup (six if you count the outside stoop) that makes Paul out of breath every time he climbs the stairs to return home. Marital tensions plus frequent unplanned visits from both Corie's critical mom and their eccentric upstairs neighbor Victor Velasco threaten to break the newlyweds apart.
Simon's dialogue is sharp and witty, and realistic for the 1960s, though by today's standards the way it deals with marital responsibilities is very dated and the jokes don't quite have the punch as some of Simon's later works. While DST's cast have the accurate cadence and tone for Simon's period dialogue, not all of the cast are adept in instilling the punch lines with the right amount of subtlety and inflection to elicit more than a chuckle.
Jacqueline Anderson is great as the carefree, flighty, spirited and chatty Corie while Gustavo Flores is suitably serious and slightly intense as Paul. Flores delivers a nicely confused performance to show how Paul is unsure of how to accurately understand and handle Corie's unbridled spirit. They form a completely realistic couple who are giddily in love and, when marital woes creep in halfway through the show, they are shown in a very natural way. As Corie's mom Mrs. Banks, Barbara McBain never misses a beat, with excellent facial expressions, body gestures, and vocal inflections to ensure every comic moment lands. As the oddball neighbor Victor, Dan Ashlock is appropriately bohemian and a bit randy, and Dakota Erickson, who is in two brief scenes as a telephone repairman, gets the best joke in the show.
Director Gary Zaro stages the action nicely, with DST's small space working beautifully for what we are continually told is a very small apartment. I only wish Zaro had been able to instill a bit more pay off for some of the humorous set ups that don't quite deliver big laughs. Dorann Matson's simple though serviceable set design and Mickey and Rhea Courtney's costume are appropriately steeped in the period.
While Barefoot in the Park isn't as funny as some of Simon's later works, it does make for a delightful trip back to the 1960s and the plight of two slightly mismatched newlyweds. When the carefree Corie tries to convince the uptight Paul to "dance barefoot in the park," you can't help but be charmed and engaged in the outcome of these two polar opposites and the marriage squabbles they endure.
Desert Stages' new space in the Scottsdale Fashion Square, which formerly housed Harkin's movie theaters, provides a great audience experience and features a beautiful lobby and stadium seating with excellent sightlines in both of their stages.
Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre's Barefoot in the Park, through October 8th, 2017, at Fashion Square, 7014 East Camelback Road, Suite 0586, Scottsdale, Arizona. Call 480-483-1664 or visit desertstages.org for information and tickets.
Director: Gary Zaro