Step Up Productions’ “Barefoot in the Park” Review – Populuxe Era Play

(left to right) Colin Sphar, Sara Minton and Alex Fisher in Step Up Productions’ BAREFOOT IN THE PARK by Neil Simon, directed by Michael Driscoll. Photo by Emily Schwartz

 

Chatting inside baseball before the show with Jeff-Award winning and Chicago Dramatists’ Resident Playwright Susan Lieberman, Michael Driscoll, the director of Step Up Productions’ “Barefoot in the Park” who is also no stranger to theater accolades, shared his initial ruminations with her on how he had considered an update of “Barefoot in the Park” to circa 2015 sensibilities.  He wondered, for example, if the two newlywed characters could come off as a gay or lesbian couple.  

 

(left to right) Alex Fisher, Sara Minton and Colin Sphar in Step Up Productions’ BAREFOOT IN THE PARK by Neil Simon, directed by Michael Driscoll. Photo by Emily Schwartz

 

Perhaps it was this thought experiment that helped shape this version of “Barefoot in the Park” as one that re-creates early 60’s ambience with perfect period costumes (Costumes by Raquel Adorno) and the run down décor of a 5th or 6th story walkup – depending on how you counted it (Scenic Design William Boles). 

 

(left to right) Alex Fisher and Colin Sphar in Step Up Productions’ BAREFOOT IN THE PARK by Neil Simon, directed by Michael Driscoll. Photo by Emily Schwartz

 

In this broken window apartment we meet newlyweds Corie (Alex Fisher) and Paul (Colin Sphar) fresh from their 6-day honeymoon in the Plaza Hotel and follow them into their first, and maybe last, battle royale of married life as the luster of the honeymoon wears off.  We also meet Corie’s mother, Ethel Banks (Sarah Minton), a suburban New Jersey woman somewhat out of sorts from the loss of her daughter to marriage, and an exotic neighbor, Victor Velasco (Michael Pascas), who initially bemoans that he is only in his mid-50’s and not quite up to the moniker of “dirty old man” that would help him score better romantically.

 

(left to right) Alex Fisher, Sara Minton, Michael Pacas and Colin Sphar in Step Up Productions’ BAREFOOT IN THE PARK by Neil Simon, directed by Michael Driscoll. Photo by Emily Schwartz

 

It’s that type of mildly amusing bon mot that peppers this script and makes it Neil Simon-esque. 

 

(left to right) Alex Fisher and Colin Sphar in Step Up Productions’ BAREFOOT IN THE PARK by Neil Simon, directed by Michael Driscoll. Photo by Emily Schwartz

 

If you are a Neil Simon devotee put this production on your short list, if for nothing else to see Colin Sphar’s great take on a presentable young man letting loose in a good drunk.

 

(left to right) Alex Fisher and Colin Sphar in Step Up Productions’ BAREFOOT IN THE PARK by Neil Simon, directed by Michael Driscoll. Photo by Emily Schwartz

 

Do come to this production prepared for non-PC particulars of another time – real or imagined.  Try not to get stuck on how 2D and superficial the female personas seem to be.  After all, the male exotic neighbor doesn’t fare much better. If you like your plays with complex characters and nuanced character development, this probably isn’t your best bet.  

 

Now through November 1, 2015.

 

The Athenaeum Theater

2936 North Southport Avenue

Chicago, IL

 

For tickets or information visit the Step Up Productions website or call the Athenaeum Box Office at 773 935 6875.

 

 

 

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