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Simon’s Newlyweds Still Funny

By Joanne Greco Rochman, Republican-American


*** 1/2 (three and a half out of five stars)

Most readers will remember Neil Simon's "Barefoot in the Park" as the 1967 film starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda.

However, the story of two young newlyweds who quickly learn that marriage is more than five steep flights of stairs started as a romantic comedy on Broadway in 1963.

The two main characters are Paul and Corie Bratter. Paul a young lawyer has let Corie find an apartment for them. What she has found is essentially a one room apartment on the top floor. With a very small bedroom and a tiny bathroom, the place is charming because of the skylight.

What is not so charming is the hole in the ceiling, which Corie overlooked when she decided this was going to be her first address as Mrs. Paul Bratter. Also not as charming are the five flights of stairs to the apartment. The stairs are so challenging that the telephone man and the furniture delivery man barely make it up the stairs and the bride's mother pretty much collapses when she gets to the top floor.

Despite the inconvenience, it's easy to see that these lovers could be happy anywhere. That is until Victor Velasco enters the action. Victor is a charismatic adventure seeker. He lives a thoroughly unconventional life in the attic above the Bratters. His insatiable appetite for the exotic and Corie's indefatigable energy cause a rift between the newlyweds.

What makes this comedy so funny are the situations in which this couple continually finds itself in. First Corie offers the telephone man who is installing the phone a glass of water. However, nothing has arrived yet, so there are no glasses. Next, her mother arrives unexpectedly, and to Corie's dismay, her husband has to work through their first night in the apartment.

That Paul promises to make it up to his wife proves his undoing since Corie decides to invite Victor and her mother along on a trip to an exotic restaurant.

There are a lot of laughs in this production, well directed by Tom Libonate who also designed the sound and outstanding set.

Jessica Alex is a feisty Corie, as attractive as she is energetic. Daniel Willey plays Paul and is well cast as the young lawyer. M.J. Hartell takes on the character of Mrs. Banks, Corie's mother. Hartell delivers one of the most memorable performances of the night.

She is most convincing when she's out of breath and takes a while before she speaks at a normal pace.

Kevin Sosbe is the flamboyant neighbor who lives life to the fullest, but doesn't come across as the womanizer Paul would be wary of. Delivering surprise performances are Jonathan Ross as the telephone man and Jeff Savage as the furniture delivery man.

Overall, "Barefoot in the Park" is fairly well done by this New Milford cast.

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