Hey, marriage ain’t easy.
It’s packed with arguments, compromises, all sorts of woes. And, if you’re lucky, great love and great happiness.
Neil Simon saw the institution with all its pitfalls and glories, and wrapped them up in his 1963 play, “Barefoot in the Park,” a love letter is his wife Joan.
Arizona Repertory Theatre goes back to that much-more-innocent time with its production of the screwballish comedy, opening in previews this weekend. It’s likely that there are few involved with the University of Arizona production that are as old as the play, so it’ll be fun to see how the student actors can step back into a time when cell phones didn’t exist, the Internet was the stuff sci-fi was made of, and people actually got married before they lived together.
The tale: It’s the early 1960s in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Paul Bratter is a straight-laced lawyer who has yet to try his first case. His new bride, Corie, is more of a free spirit, in love with spontaneity and Paul, though she longs for him to loosen up and run barefoot in the park. They have just finished a luxurious honeymoon and have moved into the apartment Corie has found — an expensive five-story walkup that is badly in need of repair. Enter into this picture Corie’s mom, high-strung and single. Corie decides she is perfect for the neighbor in the attic and that a bit of matchmaking is in order. Meanwhile, those newlyweds are having a tough time figuring out how two people with such disparate temperaments and goals can possibly make a marriage work.
The way it was: “Barefoot in the Park” recalls a much-more innocent time — at least, innocent in what’s depicted. We see the arguments, but the make-up sex is not part of the story. The idea of keeping her name after marriage would never occur to Corie — she loves being Mrs. Paul Bratter. The mother-in-law is a tad batty, but nothing the love of a good man can’t fix. Playwright Simon scoops up a piece of long-gone society with the play.
The laughs: Simon is a master at the quick, clever quips — they are his signature and one of the reasons his plays continue to be staged. But “Barefoot” offers more laugh opportunities: The apartment is five flights up and that trek up the stairs serves as a running joke throughout the play. There’s plenty of physical comedy. And really, it’s easy to see where the humor comes from when you’ve a young couple made up of a exuberant and willing-to-try anything bride, and a groom who is so uptight that he practically sleeps with his tie on.