Northwestern Press

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Bucks revisits Simon's 'Park'

Wednesday, August 22, 2012 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

You don't have to go barefoot in the Delaware River, or one of the many nearby parks along River Road on the way to New Hope.

You can go "Barefoot in the Park" at Bucks County Playhouse, which reopened this summer after going dark for nearly two years.

The Neil Simon comedy, which debuted in 1963 on the BCP stage before its original Broadway run, continues through Sept. 2.

"Barefoot" espouses the "Simon sez" comedy style born of Sid Caesar's TV comedy-variety series, "Your Show of Shows" (1950 - '54), where Simon, along with Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, honed their schticky situations.

"Barefoot," following "Come Blow Your Horn" (1961) and preceding "The Odd Couple" (1965, a Tony winner), is classic Simon stage structure: a couple, a misunderstanding, frustrations, a mother-in-law, a quirky neighbor, comic relief, mending offenses, and triumph. Exit laughing. When you see a Simon play, you walk away satisfied. There's a sense of completeness.

The Bucks' production, capably directed by Sheryl Kaller, is handsomely mounted by scenic designer Jim Noone by on a townhouse set vintage mid-century modern in furniture and accoutrements.

Lighting designer Michael Gilliam effectively advances the sense of day into night.

Before the show and during the two intermissions, sound designer Lindsay Jones cleverly recreates a 1960's AM radio station powerhouse WABC broadcast, which blends into songs emanating from the set's kitchen radio.

Costume Designer Nicole V. Moody assembled ensembles of vintage clothing, returning us to a moment in time when "The Feminine Mystique" (1993) was something guys were still trying to figure out and before women threw the Betty Friedan book at them.

Simon encapsulates the Madison Avenue mien that leaves TV's "Mad Men" mostly clueless. Instead of taking a left turn, Simon leans on Norman Rockwell verities.

Lee Aaron Rosen is sincerely glib as the aptly-named Paul Bratter, a New York City attorney whose work ethic threatens to scuttle his new bride.

Virginia Veale is nicely flummoxed as his wife, Corie Bratter.

The secondary leads have most of the great Simon quips and laugh-getters.

Candy Buckley is blissfully hilarious in vocal inflection and body language as Corie's mother.

Jonathan Hadary mines the put-upon neighbor, Victor Velasco, to great effect.

Robert John Biedermann adds to the comedy as the Telephone Repair Man.

Playhouse supporters have the Delivery Person walk-on role. On review night, Aug. 11, it was Marvin L. Woodall, Doylestown-based Heritage Conservancy board chairman.