Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

"Barefoot" Draws Laughs at Drury

Cleveland Press March 30, 1967

Even if you cannot make the first two acts of "Barefoot in the Park," come out to the Drury Theater to observe Dorothy Paxton in the third act in a size 48 man's bath robe and a couple of gunboat size slippers.

To the credit of this fine actress, as hilarious as she is in this gosh awful getup, she has been equally funny during the first two acts as she dryly delivers her witty lines -- normally dressed .

For those who haven't been exposed to it, "Barefoot In the Park" is variation number 173 or thereabouts on a familiar theme -- the one about the newlyweds after the honeymoon is over and they have moved into their own little no-room-at-all walk-up apartment on the sixth floor.

Playwright Neil Simon ("Odd Couple," "Come Blow Your Horn") is a master at making something out of nothing and "Barefoot" is a masterpiece of bright dialog, witty one-liners and the ability to sustain the laughter and pace right to the end.

These are not gag lines, but conversation that just comes out funny after being carefully constructed to do so.

The couple, Sandra Kane and William Howey, have been married six days and have just moved into an overpriced apartment with a pane of glass missing in the skylight, a bathroom too small for a tub, a bedroom almost too small for a bed and nothing that could possibly attract anyone to it except that it is their first home.

UP THOSE HORRIBLE STAIRS stagger various people -- the bridegroom, who hadn't seen the place before and is just back from the office, the bride's mother Dorothy Paxton, who is lonely but hates to admit it, and a telephone installer and a delivery man -- Vaughn McBride and L. Bramer Carlson -- who are just plain out of breath.

From elsewhere in the building emerges a colorful, penniless, mad Hungarian (Richard Oberlin) who hasn't paid his rent, has been locked out of his apartment and who gets in by crawling along the edge of the skylight.

"BAREFOOT" OFFERS something more than witty dialog, something less than plot. It offers enough situations to keep matters moving and audiences attracted.

Once the characters are through being overwhelmed by the unheated, unfurnished apartment, the furniture arrives and they get on to other matters.

Among them is the pairing off of mother and the mad Hungarian, venturing out and then returning from a party at an Albanian restaurant on Staten Island, the first big scrap by the newlyweds, the reconciliation, a few wild drunk scenes and a funny hangover.

WILLIAM HOWEY is an upstanding, confused young husband who learns in his first battle that to fight or not to fight is not the question; that either is an impossibility. Sandra Kane offers an energetic performance of a young bride all a tremble with love.

Richard Oberlin, who also directed, gives a joyfully broad interpretation of the wild neighbor.

Dorothy Paxton proves that it is possible for an actress to be funny and remain regal at the same time.