Barefoot in the Park is a Neil Simon classic about love, commitment and youthful optimism, and is currently playing at the Ensemble Theatre. When newlywed Corie rents a brand new apartment for herself and her now-husband (without his approval), the problems seemingly roll in…the apartment is tiny, faulty, up 6 levels of stairs, cold, impractical, TINY, missing essentials (like a functional roof), riddled with crazy neighbours…for Paul, Corie’s new husband, the list goes on. Noting her evidently naive but delightfully optimistic love for her new apartment – the first thing she has successfully completed without her mother’s guidance – both Paul, and Corie’s mother, try to find the positives in this unquestionably terrible apartment.
As anyone who has ever lived on a budget will know – when the place is plagued with issues and so small that you are tripping over one another, tensions rise quickly and very quickly, in the case of Corie and Paul, erupt the honeymoon phase. Each time they are perhaps progressing again to a happy place in their relationship, something comes up – like the stairs, or their incandescent neighbour, or the need to sleep in patterns of left to right as they share a single bed in the linen closet. Corie’s youth and excitement seemingly colour her interpretation of this series of unfortunate events, further frustrating her new husband who is ready to start focusing on real life again, rather than the dreamy honeymoon getaway they shared at the Plaza Hotel.
Without question, Barefoot in the Park is the Ensemble Theatre’s highlight of their 2016 season as they again finally deliver on a great script and fantastic cast performances. Barefoot in the Park offered everything that people love from both a romantic comedy, and for noticeably, from a Neil Simon play – precision, perfectly timed wit, speed and enough absurdity to get the audience roaring with laughter.
Executing Simon’s vision perfectly, director Mark Kilmurry has this time delivered something special! Whilst I haven’t agreed necessarily with Kilmurry’s choices in earlier plays this season, this time, he has truly nailed it!
The acting was strong and the performances from Mia Lethbridge and Jake Speer were especially so. As the young married couple, these two were completely believable and played against each other so organically. Under utilized was Jamie Oxenbould who played the hilariously out-of-breath telephone repair man – Oxenbould is a very talented actor who is no stranger to the Australian stage and whilst I agree so perfect for this role, I wish we could have seen more of him (a comment I suppose directed to Neil Simon more than anyone else). As the free-spirit, loving and full of adventure, Victor, Daniel Mitchell brought great life (and lust) to the role. Completing the cast was Georgie Parker as Corie’s mother – a single woman now without the home-comfort of her daughter yet still being completely manipulated by her daughter’s plans – the most current of which is to set her up with Victor.
Whilst this production truly did benefit from the collaboration of talents of all mentioned till now, the stand out for me was Alicia Clements’ design work – the stage was perfection! The set for this particular play utilized the ensemble stage space so well by offering that split level to add height and dimension and by using each crevice of space available but for a purpose. The props and set pieces were well sourced and well designed and the visual of a well-to-do couple living in the rat-race that is the New York housing industry was achieved with sincerity to the situation and hilarity. The last set I remember appreciating quite as much as Clements’ in the Ensemble space was that of Rabbit Proof Fence many years back now. I really hope to see more of Clements’ work of this standard on the Ensemble stage for years to come.
Playing until the 8th of October, this is a great show and especially for those who have an appreciation of a Neil Simon play, this is one not to miss. Really glad I managed to catch this play – it was a great night!
Tickets can be purchased http://ensemble.com.au/plays/barefoot-in-the-park and the Ensemble offers discounted tickets for full-time students and for under 30s (for those studying part-time).
2016 Show 49 – Barefoot in the Park – @ensembletheatre – by far the best show of the 2016 ensemble theatre season! It was fast, funny, perfectly performed and the set was fantastic! One of the best uses of the space I think I've ever seen at the ensemble! I've always enjoyed Neil Simon's plays and this was no exception – in this play he marries what many audiences would see as the norm, with some ridiculous humour and crazy situations to make a great 2 hours of entertainment. Mia Lethbridge as Corie was unquestionably the stand out in this piece, closely followed by Jake Speer as Paul. After seeing Jamie Oxenbould again in #theliterati at @griffintheatre earlier this year, it was definitely sad to see him so under-utilised in this show – he was great in what he was in but I would have liked to see more of Jamie. All in all, a great night's entertainment thanks to a wonderfully performed and delightfully funny play. #barefootinthepark #neilsimon #ensemble #theatre #sydney #australia #play #comedy #theatretravels #theatretravelsdownunder