Review: Barefoot In The Park (Ensemble Theatre)

ensembleVenue: Ensemble Theatre (Kirribilli NSW), Aug 25 – Oct 8, 2016
Playwright: Neil Simon
Director: Mark Kilmurry
Cast: Mia Lethbridge, Daniel Mitchell, Jamie Oxenbould, Georgie Parker, Jake Speer
Image by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
It is the 1960s. Corie and Paul are moving into their tiny New York apartment, about to begin life together as newlyweds. After 6 days of honeymoon bliss cooped up in a hotel room, they emerge to meet us just as the reality of mundanity begins to sink in. Divorce was a topic much more controversial at that time, and the threat of a marriage breakup in Neil Simon’s Barefoot In The Park has lost considerable effect in terms of the dramatic tension it is able to create, but as a frothy comedy, its structure and dialogue retain a classic charm that many will find irresistible.

Mia Lethbridge leads a cast of actors, memorable for their bubbly playfulness and congenial warmth. As Corie, Lethbridge’s perky portrayal of naivety is consistently delightful and surprisingly persuasive, with an energetic presence that holds the show together, along with all its relentless frivolities. Director Mark Kilmurry does an excellent job of the comedy, establishing a brilliant sense of timing for the production’s entirety that ensures top entertainment value, but the development of character conflicts require greater nuance for Simon’s plot to be more believable.

When two people get together and form an intense bond, the pleasures that materialise are almost always coupled with challenges, big and small. In Barefoot In The Park, we want the lovebirds to find a way to sort out their differences. We invest in their romance, because loneliness is an abominable monster that must be vanquished at all cost. Times change, but the fear of being alone is perennial. Without each other, Corie and Paul must find meaning only within themselves but in Neil Simon’s quaint fantasy, they only have to indulge in a mutual infatuation, so that their days may be filled with joy, to have and to hold, till death do they part.