Playhouse Tulsa to present plays of the heart
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Sunday, February 03, 2013
2/03/13 at 5:07 AM
If you're going to stage a couple of shows at a time that happens to coincide with Valentine's Day, why not pick two plays that demonstrate the light and dark sides of romance by two of the best-known playwrights in the world?
It might appear Playhouse Tulsa had this in mind when it scheduled Neil Simon's romantic comedy "Barefoot in the Park" alongside Shakespeare's tragedy of obsession and betrayal "Othello."
It would certainly fit the pattern of previous Playhouse seasons, when the company would present two thematically linked plays in repertory, such as last season's "The Tempest" and "William and Judith."
However, appearances - as anyone familiar with the character of Iago in "Othello" will know - can be deceiving.
"I'd like to say that was our idea all along - to explore that whole 'two extremes of love' thing," said Chris Crawford, Playhouse's artistic director. "But to be honest, we really had no plans to do a Shakespeare play this season."
Simon's "Barefoot in the Park," on the other hand, had been part of the season Crawford and co-artistic director Courtneay Sanders devised for 2013-2014.
"Last year was...well, it was really something of a downer," Sanders said, laughing. "We did a lot of pretty heavy shows. So one thing we really wanted for this season was to do something that would be silly and fun."
However, the company had offered special shows of its previous Shakespeare productions for high school students, "and we started getting a lot of calls from teachers wanting to know what Shakespeare play we were doing," Crawford said.
"By coincidence, I had been working on an adaptation of 'Othello' that would use only six actors," he said. "And during 'The Unmentionables' last season, I joked with Carl Collins, who played the Doctor, about finding a show the two of us could do together."
So the company will be presenting six performances of "Barefoot in the Park" beginning Friday at the PAC and two performances of "Othello" on Feb. 13 and 16, in addition to the student matinees.
"Barefoot in the Park" was Simon's first big success - it remains his longest-running Broadway show, with more than 1,500 performances of its original 1963 staging.
The story of a newlywed couple - he's a straitlaced lawyer, she's much more free-spirited - trying to survive the first few days of marriage in a leaky New York apartment was inspired by Simon's first marriage.
"Personally, I love Neil Simon," Crawford said. "People tend to focus on the one-liners, and it's very easy to treat his characters as stereotypes. That's what makes his shows a challenge - you have to fight against all that, to make these characters real people."
"There's a lot more to these characters than what you see on the page," Sanders added. "It's very funny and romantic, but there's also a real sense of sadness in this play - that possibility that the problems these two have with each other might really break them apart."
Crawford and Sanders will play the newlyweds, Paul and Corrie, with Barbara Murn as Mrs. Banks, Corrie's mother, and Ron Friedberg as Victor, the couple's eccentric neighbor.
"Ron and Barbara have this incredible chemistry together," Crawford said.
"I really didn't have to do much in the way of directing their scenes - when two actors work that well together, you just let them go."
As for Crawford's adaptation of "Othello," letting things go is the last thing he can allow to happen.
"I combined some characters but for the most part I haven't reduced the script too much," he said. "Three actors - Carl as Othello, Shannon Garcia as Desdemona and myself as Iago - will be doing single characters. Courtneay, Tyler Humphries and Megg Hayhurst will be playing multiple characters."
"I get to play an old man, for example," Sanders said.
"And Tyler plays two characters, one of which has to kill the other," Crawford said. "We're doing this in a very '39 Steps,' highly theatrical kind of way."
‘BAREFOOT IN THE PARK’ AND ‘OTHELLO’
When: “Barefoot,” 7:30 p.m. Friday-
Saturday and Feb. 14-15, 2 p.m. Feb.
10 and 17. “Othello,” 7:30 p.m. Feb.
13, 2 p.m. Feb. 14
Where: Williams Theatre, Tulsa
PAC, 110 E. Second St.
Tickets: $10-$25. 918-596-7111,
Note: The Feb. 15 performance
of “Barefoot” and the Feb. 16
“Othello” will be interpreted for the
Original Print Headline: Plays of the heart
James D. Watts Jr 918-581-8478
Courtneay Sanders is Corrie and Chris Crawford is Paul in Playhouse Tulsa's production of "Barefoot in the Park" by Neil Simon. Courtesy