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Queens Chronicle

Even yesterday, love was not an easy game to play

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Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:33 pm, Wed Nov 27, 2019.

Certain things improve with age, others not so much.

Among the less fortunate are some of the plays by the most successful American playwright of all time, Neil Simon, whose early work “Barefoot In the Park” has just opened a run at Queens Theatre, where it plays through Nov. 24.

It remains a personal favorite, but references to the likes of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (a popular actor in his time) and “What’s My Line?” (a long-running television quiz show), and commentary on the lifestyle of folk singers, simply don’t elicit the kind of laughter that they once surely did.

The story itself is simple enough. Paul and Corie, a newlywed couple, have moved into a fifth-floor brownstone walkup in Manhattan, and before the honeymoon is over, differences in their personalities begin to wreak havoc on their marriage.

Throw in a meddling mother-in-law, an eccentric neighbor who lives in the attic and a compassionate telephone repairman, and the scene is set.

Speaking of which, the apartment setting designed by Akiko Rotch is spot-on, a throwback to a time long since gone, complete with peeling walls, a skylight with a hole in it (allowing for some humorous cracks), an old-fashioned radiator and period kitchen appliances.

But the cast, which includes handicapped and ethnically diverse performers, is definitely up-to-date.

Carey Cox, a disabled actress with Broadway under her belt, makes for an animated Corie. However, it seems highly unlikely that, despite her sense of adventure, this Corie would have taken a top-floor apartment in a nonelevator building. And, while, in a running gag, everyone else is completely out of breath every time they emerge from the stairwell, Corie is not. This seems a miscalculation.

Opposite her as her stuffed shirt of a husband is Spencer Lackey, a likable actor who takes on the challenge of filling the shoes once occupied by a young Robert Redford, who played the role on stage and the subsequent film version of the play.

Mhari Sandoval as Mrs. Banks, Corie’s busybody mother, does little to earn the laughs ordinarily associated with one of Simon’s choicest character roles. Similarly, Jon J. Peterson, whose Victor Velasco, the man upstairs, takes a shining to her, needed to be much more over the top in a role that cries out for flamboyance. And in two cameo appearances as the repairman, Rahoul Roy barely registers in a role that has been known to practically steal the show.

Under the direction of Brant Russell, who helmed an outstanding production of “The Miracle Worker” at the same venue a couple of seasons ago, the current offering is merely serviceable. It’s never unpleasant, but it never delights the way it might have.

Opening night there were several minor missteps, including, on at least one occasion, a telephone that continued to ring after the receiver had been picked up.

The play, which delighted audiences for almost four years in its initial Broadway run, became one of the longest-running comedies in history. It still makes for a pleasant diversion and perhaps serves best as a backward glance, offering older theatergoers a touch of nostalgia and young theatergoers the opportunity to experience a bit of life as it used to be.

With rents going for $125 a month, who wouldn’t want to return to those good old days, if only for a couple of hours?

‘Barefoot in the Park’
 
When: Fri., Nov. 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 23, 2 and 8 p.m., Sun., Nov. 24, 3 p.m.
Where: Queens Theatre, 14 United Nations Ave. South, Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Tickets: $20-$40. (718) 760-0064,

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