Review: Barefoot in the Park Delivers Laughs With a Stylish Romance

Moonstone Theatre Company in St. Louis opens its second season with Neil Simon

click to enlarge A man in a suit and a woman in jeans and a top standing next to a step ladder, talk with an older woman wearing a dress, fur coat and hat, and carrying her purse while seated on a suitcase in a scene from Barefoot in the Park.
John Gitchoff
Paul (Luis Aguilar) and Corie (Rhiannon Creighton) welcome Mother (Jilanne Klaus) to their as yet unfurnished apartment in a scene from Barefoot in the Park.

Newlyweds Corie and Paul face the challenges of setting up a new apartment in New York City while still getting to know each other — while perhaps still discovering truths about their own selves. Neil Simon takes these familiar milestones and humorously explores them in Barefoot in the Park, a romantic comedy set in 1966. Moonstone Theater Company embraces the comedy and period in a snappy, stylish production.

Though quite in love, we soon learn that Corie and Paul are of very different temperaments. Corie is creative and longs to take in everything that New York City offers a young couple. She loves their tiny, sixthfloor apartment and sees potential everywhere, for example, in the view from the large skylight overhead. Paul is more pragmatic and almost immediately notices the hole in said skylight. She bounds up the stairs; he loses his breath and starts wheezing at about the third floor. After Corie's mother shows up unexpectedly, Corie schemes to fix her up with the couple's eccentric neighbor Victor Velasco. Fun, and a few difficulties here and there, ensues.

Rhiannon Creighton captures your attention and revels in the spotlight as Corie. Or, rather, Mrs. Paul Bratter, as the six-days married bride likes to introduce herself. She shines with a positive, can-do attitude and an effusive spirit that proves quite compelling. Corie is naturally curious with an eager-to-please demeanor that, while a bit of a free spirit, is completely comfortable with the norms of the period. She's adventurous yes, but not particularly rebellious.

click to enlarge A woman in pants and a top, wearing an apron, introduces a man holding a toolbox to her husband, who is wearing a suit, and reading the paper while seated on a couch.
John Gitchoff
Corie Batter (Rhiannon Creighton) introduces the telephone company installer (Chuck Brinkley) to Paul (Luis Aguilar) in a scene from Barefoot in the Park.

Luis Aguilar's Paul is a hardworking, grounded foil to Corie's excess. While occasionally exasperated, Aguilar ensures we see how much Paul truly loves his wife, even as she challenges his more sensible, practical personality. Jilanne Klaus plays Corie's mother, though the character is much more like Paul than Corie, creating additional comic possibilities. Aguilar and Klaus are both quite expressive, saying much with a shrug, shared glance or shake of the head in a way that connects well with the audience.

TJ Lancaster is exaggeratedly funny as Victor Velasco, revealing kindness and respect beneath his bravado. Chuck Brinkley and Bob Harvey make the most of their scenes, though Harvey's deliveryman pushes the calamitous mugging a touch too long.

Though not quite as over-the-top hilarious as some of his other works, the affectionate humor in Simon's tightly wound script is plentiful, and the laughs come easy. Director Sharon Hunter and the creative team wisely choose to keep the show set in 1966. Simon's script, while filled with truths about love and its challenges and surprises, is firmly of its period and privilege. Thankfully, it's Mrs. and not Mr. Bratter who's the lynchpin in this romantic romp, and Creighton ensures we're cheering for her at every turn. She commits fully and charms the audience even as we occasionally roll our eyes, and there's plenty to clap for at the curtain. If you can let the outdated references slide, Barefoot in the Park is a delightfully quirky romantic comedy.

Barefoot in the Park will be open through Sunday, November 13, at the Kirkwood Performing Arts Center (210 East Monroe Avenue). Tickets are $15 to $40. Showtimes vary by day. More information at moonstonetheatrecompany.com.

About The Author

Tina Farmer

Tina Farmer is a longtime critic who has spent the last decade reviewing productions for KDHX. She is also very involved with the St. Louis Theater Circle, which supports the theater community by organizing annual awards that honor the best local productions.
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