Barefoot in the Park: OLT offers believable characterization of a rather dated play.

Reviewed by Iris Winston

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Photo: Maria Vartanova

Barefoot in the Park by Neil Simon. Directed by Richard Elichuk. A production of the Ottawa Little Theatre.

When Barefoot in the Park premiered on Broadway, it was an instant hit, running for more than 1,500 performances — a record run for a non-musical play. In 1967, the movie version starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, was also a success.

That was half a century ago. And in the 50 years since the mid-1960s, attitudes towards marital roles have changed massively. This means that the play frequently creaks along, particularly when it is presented as a three-act show.

Unless the comedy — which Simon wrote as a tribute to his first wife — is given a stellar production, we are more likely to notice that it is a dated piece than to appreciate the core of the story: that opposites attract and that there is a steep learning curve in the early days of any marriage. In addition, the play relies heavily on the oft-repeated, and now stale, joke about the location of the overpriced, walk-up apartment where newly weds Corie and Paul Bratter are enjoying their first taste of marriage and near-divorce.

As directed by Richard Elichuk, with assistance from Dianna Renée Yorke and Susanna Doherty, the Ottawa Little Theatre production is at its best when focusing on character definition.

The most effective and totally believable characterization is delivered by Christine Drew as the bride’s mother, Barry Caiger is amusing as the colourful upstairs neighbour, despite occasionally dropping his European accent.

As the telephone repair man, embarrassed by being present during a quarrel between the Bratters, Bill Milner also offers an effective cameo.

Meanwhile, Katherine Norland as Corrie and Jesse Lalonde as Paul, while clear about their characters, do not radiate any chemistry in their interactions or give a convincing demonstration of a young couple in love — according to Corrie’s mother, Ethel, more in love than any other pair she has met.

It is also hard to understand why Elichuk found it necessary for Corrie to appear partially dressed some of the time. However, as he did, it might have been wiser to shop at Victoria’s Secret for more interesting underwear.

Margaret Coderre-Williams’ set is attractive, almost too attractive at the beginning for the required contrast after the furniture is in place.

While this production has its moments, it does not overcome the dated nature of the script.

Barefoot in the Park continues at Ottawa Little Theatre to July 30.

Set: Margaret Coderre-Williams

Lighting: Frank Donato

Sound: Kenny hayes

Costume: Peggy Laverty

Cast:

Corrie Bratter………………………………………………………….Katherine Norland

Telephone repair man………………………………………………….Bill Milner

Delivery man…………………………………………………………..Terry Duncan

Paul Bratter…………………………………………………………….Jesse Lalonde

Ethel Banks…………………………………………………………….Christine Drew

Victor Velasco…………………………………………………………Barry Caiger


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