About the Play: “Barefoot in the Park”
It’s the 1960s. You meet someone. You get swept off your feet. You fall in love. You marry them. Boom. End of story. At least, that’s what a majority of the films from that time look like. Audrey Hepburn falls in love with Fred Astaire. Debbie Reynolds falls in love with Gene Kelly. Actually … a ton of ladies fall in love with Gene Kelly. But what happens after they fall in love?
Let’s be real. Falling in love while dating is easy. Moving in together and staying in love is a whole new ball game. It’s why so many people today decide to move-in together before getting married. They want a nice trial period before having to be together till death do them part. As you might already know, test runs weren’t very common back then. So it was sink or swim. Could you accept the other person’s flaws? Could you accept your own?
Barefoot in the Park is the epitome of two young lovers making that exact discovery. After a blissful week of honeymooning, the newlywed Bratters start to settle into real life in their very real, very small apartment. Goodbye niceties, hello reality. As they try to find the positive in their less than ideal living situation, they begin to discover discrepancies in their personalities.
Still buzzing from their honeymoon, Corie’s rose-colored glasses take away the sting of having to climb up to the top floor. Paul, on the other hand, has had a swift return to reality. His focus shifts as the potential to advance at his law firm looms. However, paying top dollar for a small apartment on the top floor of a building with no elevator, surrounded by curious characters on every floor of the building begins to take a toll on Paul. While Corie sees a bedroom, Paul sees a closet. She sees a wonderful split level, he sees another flight of stairs. Corie sees an beautiful place to gaze at the stars, Paul sees a hole in the skylight. She wants to enjoy a night out on the town, he wants to buckle down and focus on his latest court case.
Eventually, Corie’s spontaneous spirit wins out and leads them to a night full of foreign experiences choreographed by their new neighbor Mr. Velasco. And as if dragging Paul along for the ride wasn’t enough, Corie finessed her mother, Ethel, into joining them as well.
Throughout the night, the disparity between the newlyweds becomes more evident. Their struggle to overcome their differences even drives them apart temporarily. However, by the end of the play the two explore why their differences just might be the thing that brought them together in the first place. Barefoot in the Park honors the growing pains that many couples go through to reach a new level of love. The kind of love that enables them to see past the differences of their partner and even appreciate them.
This charming Neil Simon play was only the second play he had ever written. Simon had written for television for nearly 20 years before writing for the stage. He had wrestled with Barefoot in the Park for quite some time. The first act alone took more than 4 months to write! Ultimately, he decided to put his foot on the gas to just finish it.
As with many artists, taking inspiration from his own life gave him a little boost. His relationship with dancer Joan Baim served as the foundation for Barefoot in the Park. While writing theatrical skits for a camping resort in the Poconos, Simon met Baim who was serving as a camp counselor at the time. That same year they married and stayed married for 20 years.
What was originally a small tribute to his own love story turned out to be much more. Simon was in no way expecting Barefoot in the Park to gain the traction that it did, seeing that this was only his second play. And yet, that play followed by The Odd Couple earned him the title of “the hottest playwright on Broadway”. From then on Simon was known for finding the funny in the frustrating.
Thanks to Corie and Paul, we can learn to do the same. And by doing so, we can better the relationships with those we love most. After all, it’s a lot easier to gain a little perspective on trivial problems when you don’t have to go through them yourself. Right?