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Barefoot in the Park

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Some facts about New York life attain, over time, the stature of eternal truth. Rents are high; walkups are tiring. The same goes for certain observations on married life. Careers are complicated; honeymoons end. It falls to Neil Simon to wring from these familiar conditions some familiar laughs. In Barefoot in the Park, two apparently mismatched newlyweds, uptight Paul and high-spirited Corie, attempt to settle into their new top-floor apartment. Complications ensue when her fussy mother turns up and their attic-dwelling neighbor drops down. Get this: He’s kooky. Can you imagine?

It probably wasn’t in director Scott Elliott’s power to wrest a really transcendent night from this material, but he does make it a diverting one. As Corie, Amanda Peet isn’t quite charming, but she’s irrepressible, which suffices, more or less. The real surprise comes from her co-star Patrick Wilson. Musicals and Mormons, it seems, have been making a shameful waste of an extraordinary talent: This man is funny. With knotted brows and a vexed, slightly sour expression, he continually finds big laughs. More comedy, please—and soon.

Neither Jill Clayburgh nor Tony Roberts seems the right type for the quirky mother and neighbor, respectively, but she has the likability to get by, and he has that voice. Rich but not quite regal, it’s as delightfully singular now as it was 30 years ago, when he spent all of Annie Hall calling Woody Allen “Max.” Plus, everybody looks great: Isaac Mizrahi has designed the costumes within a stitch of their lives. The next time a Noël Coward revival comes around, he’s your couturier.

By Neil Simon at the Cort Theater


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