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Barefoot in the Park

Curtain up. Early '60s forlorn Greenwich Village top-floor studio apartment. Lots of potential. Hyperactive newlywed Corie (Amanda Peet, below) readies the place for new husband, lawyer Paul (Patrick Wilson, below.). The apartment is transformed at the start of Scene 2.

The production is not. Originally, Neil Simon's sweetly observed comedy of jittery early married life nestled safely within the innocence and conventions of its era. His writing married skillfully crafted comedy moments and confident comic delivery, notably the incomparable Mildred Natwick as the clueless, ultraconventional New Jersey mother-in-law. Director Scott Elliot's current Broadway revival, substituting the instinctively urbane Jill Clayburgh in that role and adding Tony Roberts as the beatnik lothario who lives in the building's attic, robs the piece of its most vital element: the charm that flows from seeing sincere people struggling sincerely, and comically, as their lives change.

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Disbelief has not only been suspended; it's been machine-gunned by frenetic behavior. The victims are countless amusing moments and hearty laughs. Watch Natwick (plus Redford and Fonda) in the film version to see what this piece is capable of delivering.


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