Theater review: Playhouse makes "Barefoot in the Park" believable
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Saturday, February 09, 2013
2/09/13 at 5:20 AM
The cast of Playhouse Tulsa's production of "Barefoot in the Park" performs this Neil Simon play as if they aren't expecting the audience to laugh.
Of course, the audience does laugh - those who attended the company's invitational performance Thursday at the Tulsa PAC laughed a great deal throughout the evening.
It's just that one never got the sense of the actors delivering a sure-fire punch line and waiting for the crowd to respond - of playing this show as a "comedy."
Instead, the Playhouse cast presented a relatively straightforward play about a newlywed couple, the bride's mother and an eccentric neighbor, whose romantic interactions over the course of a couple of days just happened to prompt a whole lot of funny conversations.
And this low-key, finely balanced approach, under the direction of Chris Crawford, works to great effect in this "Barefoot in the Park," giving this slight story a refreshing energy, buoyancy and - more importantly - believability.
The characters of the newly wedded Paul (Crawford) and Corrie (Courtneay Sanders) are just about polar opposites. She's the impulsive, free-spirited one who wants every day of married life to mimic those five days of the honeymoon. He's the pragmatist - the one who notices that the apartment his wife has chosen for them lacks such things as a bathtub, space for something larger than a single bed, or even an adequate roof.
It would be easy to play up Corrie's exuberance as kookiness or make Paul more priggish than practical. But Sanders and Crawford keep their characters well grounded, with a palpable romantic chemistry that makes those moments when anger gets the best of them crackle as much with tension as with comedy.
The same is true of the characters played by Barbara Murn and Ron Friedberg. Murn brings a touch of real pathos to her character, a woman who feels lost in life but won't succumb to self-pity, while Friedberg, as a criminally frugal gourmet with a penchant for climbing through windows, has an impish charm that makes what could be a somewhat creepy character close to lovable.
Garrek Reed and Shane Sodsaikich are suitably breathless as visitors who have to climb five flights of stairs to conduct their business. Shawn Irish's multi-level set and Jennifer Cozens' costumes nicely evoke the style of the early 1960s.
"Barefoot in the Park" continues with performances at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Feb. 14-16, 2 p.m. Sunday at the Tulsa PAC, 110 E. Second St. For tickets: 918-596-7111, tulsaworld.com/mytix
Original Print Headline: Playhouse makes 'Barefoot' believable
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478
Courtneay Sanders stars as Corrie and Chris Crawford is Paul in Playhouse Tulsa's production of "Barefoot in the Park." Courtesy